"Coast to Coast" is the third in a series by the East West Summit band continuing the tradition of fabled trumpet duo sessions: Fats Navarro and Howard McGhee, and Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw.
Coast to Coast is not about trumpeters trying to best each other in a blowing session. Instead, it is two complementary trumpeters giving us a selection of jazz classics and original compositions.
This is the third album by the East West Trumpet Summit. The band is made up of musicians from both coasts. Vega is based in NYC and Marriott is based in Seattle. The remaining members of the quintet also reflect the east-west roots - Seattle (Glynn), Philadelphia (Evans), and Los Angeles (McCurdy).
Each of the musicians has numerous albums out as leaders and as sidemen. McCurdy has appeared as a sideman on some 150 albums. Their rapport on this album is remarkable with songs that feature solos by all members.
The song choice is diverse - songs by George Cables, Don Cherry, and Charles Mingus, a couple of Great American Songbook ballads, and originals by Marriott.
Each trumpeter plays a song featuring their trumpet alone. When playing, Vega is in the right channel and Marriott is in the left. Throughout the legendary Roy McCurdy provides unflagging beats for the whole band to play over.
The first song "One Day at a Time" provides an overview of the arrangements on the album- dual trumpets in the opening section, each trumpeter takes some solo space, piano solo, along with occasional bass and drums solos followed by again a dual trumpet section and then close. The unique sound of each of the trumpeters and their way of trading phrases keep the album lively.
The song "You've Changed", made famous by Billie Holiday, features Marriott. He has a fluid tone and plays a thoughtful brooding solo. To me, the song reflects a feeling of loss or an unsettling change in a relationship. The song traces the resolution of the feeling and acceptance.
After Evans takes a piano solo, he is followed by Marriott playing in a higher range. The song becomes more energetic and uplifting and comes to a lovely close. I like to think that the changes mentioned in the title were accepted and the couple moved on apart.
The song "Art Deco" by Don Cherry opens with a phrase where Vega starts the theme and then seamlessly passing it to Marriot to finish. The band gets into the funky beat with Vega taking the first solo followed by Marriott's entry again restating the theme. The band changes the rhythm up and gets ready for the horn's return. He comes back in playing more freely with the Cherry tune.
The complementary trumpets play off of each other's solos. They end with the opening of the song, again passing off the lead phrase from Vega to Marriott.
The song "Girl Talk" by Neal Hefti is Ray Vega's show as sole trumpeter. He has a well-rounded tone that is not overly brassy. The warm playing coupled with a nice lazy beat makes this song one to listen to closely. Vega eschews histrionics and focuses on phrasing rather than high notes. The piano solos and bass solos keep up the song's beat.
"Front Row Family" features an opening with both trumpeters employ mutes for sailing along on the beat. This is one of the most enjoyable songs on the album. The trumpeters take turns at the lead. As Marriott plays, Vega plays underneath, besides, and in unison.
The song gives me the feeling I am in a far-off, unreachable peaceful place. After a band section, Vega continues on muted trumpet and he comes back in playing support to Marriott.
The closing track, "So Long Eric", opens with the well-known Charles Mingus bass line. The trumpets mimic the Mingus rendition(s) that use two or more different horns.
Marriott solos while the band meanders from the core of the song. Vega comes back in on muted trumpet again playing a bit freer but still in a bebop way. After a piano interlude, the band brings the song back to the original theme.
I came away from this album with a newfound appreciation for the dual trumpet-led band. Vega and Marriott have different styles, tone, and sound but complement each other. This album along with the two previous East-West Summit albums deserves more listeners' attention.