Terell Stafford

New Beginnings

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Named after a suite composed for the Dayton, OH, arts organization Cityfolk, New Beginnings buckles under the weight of its diverse choice of material, just holding together due to the musicians' expertise. Terell Stafford bounces between trumpet and fl├╝gelhorn, the choice of material ranges from standards to funk, and there must have been a rotating door for the four saxophonists. Luckily, our leader is a "musician's musician," so if listeners consider it a chance to sit in on Stafford's class at Temple, they'll be rewarded. Stafford steps up slowly to Fletcher Henderson's "Soft Winds" before having some fun, assuredly stretching notes before handing it over to Jesse Davis and Harry Allen's more relaxed and soulful approaches. It's a great opener, with solos being bounced back and forth to introduce the players quickly. Mulgrew Miller is in fine form throughout the record, placing his solo between the beats on "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed" and providing ample support for the leads elsewhere. Derrick Hodge's acoustic bass is spot-on, but less compelling when he switches to electric for the anemic funk of "Selah," the "New Beginnings Suite" opener. The three-song suite could be taken apart without anyone noticing, but its structure does allow the sideman ample room to explore on an already sideman-friendly record. Stafford slinks across Stephen Scott's wonderful arrangement of "Kumbaya" and Steve Wilson's brilliant soprano pushes the whole band toward a rapturous ending. It's definitely the album's winner, and as a closer it leaves the listener exalted.

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