Howard Britz

Here I Stand

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Standup acoustic bassist Howard Britz knows his modern jazz, how to attractively construct it, and how to pick musicians that can execute his vision. Britz himself is a facile player, whose persona is rooted in the modern mainstream, solid swing, and deep blue inventions. What is most impressive about Britz are his compositions, brimming with good ideas, bright melodicism and witty charts that are interesting to both his bandmates and the astute listener. Those who nit-pick might deem this material derivative, and certainly comparisons can be made to classic hard and neo-bop sounds. But make no mistake, this music jumps out of the speakers, commands attention, and is well worth repeated listenings. The excellent hot track "New York Roast" convincingly reflects the teamwork and good feelings always extant with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, as does "Scatterbug," a Blakey signature popping staccato-infused chart that is complicated without being overly complex. Alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin, a rising star following the pathway of Kenny Garrett, shines brightly, as does the always outstanding pianist George Colligan. In a post Blakey/Wynton Marsalis stance, "Lucky Friday the 13th" starts with a free based intro, moves to a New Orleans shuffle from drummer Sylvia Cuenca, then swings in a hip, contemporary manner. The sad, pensive sound of Tom Harrell is evoked by trumpeter David Smith during "Goodbye, For Dad," a 7/8 modern neo/post-bop groove informs "Martha's Song," for Britz's wife, and a tribute to hero bassist Ray Brown is another groover melded to the blues with the leader upfront during "Brown & Sizzle." And these are the tunes that follow the very fine opening tracks, the punchy and quirky, fun and funky "Yaakology," and the peppy kinetic 6/8 waltz-like "Oceans," very modern New York City, Seventh Avenue South, '80s Brecker Brothers style neo-bop. This ultra-solid CD from Britz, his third effort and clearly his best, is a sleeper in the general scheme, and definitely a keeper in your collection should you come across it, which you are advised to search for and obtain.

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