Bob Leatherbarrow

Bumpin' in the Basement

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We don't know if the title refers to drummer Leatherbarrow hiding in the basement, working on his jazz drumming until he felt comfortable to perform or record, but the result is a promising straight-ahead date with heavyweight veterans that should please a wide range of listeners. Leatherbarrow also wrote all 11 cut cuts. Tenor sax legend Ernie Watts, able and willing pianist Mitchel Forman, and unheralded bassist Reggie Hamilton back Leatherbarrow with dynamic functions and crisp musicianship. Leatherbarrow's music is generally energetic, tuneful, and not necessarily with the drums in your face, though he does take the lead on many tracks. The hard bop title track and "Check Please" get roaring like a freight train on the move, while good swingers like "Don't Mess With the Messenger" and "Monkalonious" have subtle quirkiness in their time shifting. Two waltzes -- "One in Three" and "Silver Slippers" -- have distinct variance (the former in and out of dynamic nuance from mezzo piano to bravissimo bold), especially from the always searing tenor of Watts. He gets to elongate solos and extrapolate on written melodies, and his improvising and tasteful, tuneful sound has never been better. The quartet steps into a stealth blues rock to hard bop and back flip flop throughout "Rush Hour," while getting modal with Forman punctuating repeated chords on "Messenger" and the easy ballad "Willows," with the pianist challenging the heaviness of Leatherbarrow (who opts for sticks instead of brushes). There's nothing groundbreaking here, but the cast Leatherbarrow has assembled suits his taste and abilities; in fact, they lift him to a higher level, and that's the best way. Compositionally and in terms of personal technique, he shows depth and intelligence. This is easily recommended.