Don Sickler

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Reflections Review

by Ken Dryden

Don Sickler has made numerous contributions as an arranger throughout his long career (though they aren't always properly credited), though this is only his sixth release as a leader. He concentrates exclusively on infrequently recorded compositions by a sextet of post-bop trumpeters, accompanied by a solid supporting cast: alto saxophonist/flutist Bobby Porcelli and pianist Ronnie Mathews (who both previously worked along with Sickler in T.S. Monk's band), bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Ben Riley. Booker Little, whose career was cut short at the age of just 23, is represented by "Bee Tee's Minor Plea" and "The Grand Valse." Sickler's approach to the first tune is more tightly woven than Little's 1960 recording, while the latter piece (a waltz) flows a bit smoother than the original; both arrangements utilize a second overdubbed trumpet for harmony in places. Miles Davis is represented by "I Didn't" (a barely disguised reworking of Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't"), "Swing Spring," "Miles Ahead," and "Denial," none of which have been recorded very often. Tommy Turrentine's career was overshadowed by his better-known brother, but Sickler clearly savors his warm ballad "Gone but Not Forgotten" with a masterful solo. Works by Joe Gordon, Lonnie Hillyer, and Bill Hardman also are treated to Sickler's well-crafted arrangements. This is the best kind of recorded tribute; not only does this CD merit high praise, but it should motivate the true jazz aficionado to acquire all of the original recordings which inspired this very successful release.

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