Clarence Penn

Play-Penn

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A strong modern mainstream set, animated by Clarence Penn's powerful drumming and leadership. Trumpeter John Swana and tenor saxophonist Ron Blake make up the front line, with bassist Rodney Whitaker and the promising guitarist Jesse Van Ruller completing the rhythm section. There's an emphasis on original music by the band: Penn contributes three tunes, and Whitaker, Swana, and Blake each offer one. But the band opens with Thelonious Monk's minor-key swinger "Teo" and also plays a beautiful "You Must Believe in Spring." Van Ruller and Swana begin the latter, and Blake pairs with the guitarist to end the piece in a similarly subdued fashion. Penn's "Blues for Paris" is a romp over Charlie Parker's "Blues for Alice" changes, with Van Ruller laying out during the horn choruses. Bob Hallahan's mellow waltz "The Charm" is another highlight, as are Swana's churning modal tune "Red Alert" and Penn's hard-swinging trio number "Preston's Theme" (featuring Ron Blake).

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