Jim Cifelli

So You Say

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For his second release, trumpeter Cifelli and his New York-based nonet walk the same path as the previous CD. Richly textured charts a la Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, or Slide Hampton define this well conceived and executed sound. Most times large and expansive, at others intricate and layered, Cifelli's relatively mainstream writing exemplifies where this type of group is -- thickly settled in this area of modernism. They exude a spirit which reflects common goals, teamwork, and a passion for the beauty attained in this type of jazz. Cifelli also likes to toss a steaming hot electric guitar into the mix, and Pete McCann fills that bill here. Drummer Tim Horner and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney more than buoy the rhythms, fortifying and enhancing them. Cifelli is joined by fellow trumpeter Andy Gravish and saxophonists Joel Frahm and Cliff Lyons (both very good), while up-and-coming trombonist Pete McGuinness and baritone sax/flute/bass clarinet tripler Barbara Cifelli round out this fine ensemble; Paul Adamy plays electric bass guitar on two cuts. The leader wrote four of the eight selections. The title track is a simmering samba, with Cifelli's soloing showcasing a bright lyrical sound that is also reflective of his compositional bent. There's a great deal of involved interaction between the horns, as well as no shortage of unity. The multi-faceted "Where Is Carmela Going Now?" varies from six to eight beats, shifting almost telepathically while McCann and McGuinness lay out their lines of color. "First Sight" (about a child perhaps?) is a nice, easy, expansive ballad with a most expressive alto solo by the adept Lyons. "Undercurrent" seems to belie its title with its huge, hard-swinging sound and urgently rambling, well-balanced chart. The quieter solo section has the horns reveling in repeated melody lines and stop-start tactics as a backdrop for fine solos by Gravish and Frahm on tenor sax. McSweeney wrote "Without Changes," an ebb-and-flow number based in a multi-colored bossa/light swing frame, further illuminated by wonderful solos from McGuinness and, especially, Lyons' soprano sax. The trombonist contributes "The Longing," apropos at over nine minutes. It's an easy waltz with contrapuntal layers and a boppish, animated solo from Frahm's tenor. The standards are Gerry Mulligan's "Night Lights" (arranged by Ed Xiques), a lament-drenched, near-woeful ballad, and Joe Henderson's "Recorda Me," which starts with a wild intro, then a cool mid-section supplemental chart. Cifelli's potential as a bandleader is being realized, but his upside as a player and composer of ensemble jazz is still being scratched and sniffed, not yet fully inhaled. All things in time, for the democratic approach seems to suit him and his able cohorts quite well. This is a very good recording, recommended, and deserving of all jazz lovers' attention.

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