Tony Martucci


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East Coast jazz drummer Tony Martucci has been known as a quintessential sideman, but has a leader's streak in him. This quintet date exudes a quiet confidence that imbues a less bold spirit not associated in hard or post-bop. The front line of trumpeter Tim Hagans and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin match quite well, as neither dominates yet both are able to express their individuality. This even dynamic balance allows Martucci, the extraordinary bassist Drew Gress, and outstanding pianist Marc Copland to take liberties with their rhythmic roles, and push the envelope. Of the handful of standards, the Johnny Hodges swinger "Squatty Roo" is played perfectly, but "You Don't Know What Love Is" and especially Duke Ellington's "The Mystery Song" are played in much darker shades than the originals. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" starts free and then goes typically funky, but not overtly. There's a free-floating version of Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," and the lone composition of the drummer, a John Coltrane-ish suspended time piece "Il Figlio Dello Scarpaio." Copland and Gress wrote most of the remainder of the program, with the pianists "Off the Wagon" a bright bluesy neo-bopper, with the bassist penning the somber "Away" and Ornette Coleman-like brittle "Here at the Bottom of the Sky." The bright and restrained tone of Hagans with Eskelin's slightly edgy sax is best heard on the CD's standout track, Copland's "Seurat," a facile modernistic piece melding staccato melody notes with juxtaposing rhythms from all the players -- a stunning piece of music. The best leaders use the best players, and this still young and experienced band showcases not so much the drummer's pure talent, but his eminent good taste in picking ultimate simpatico bandmates. This CD comes easily recommended.

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