Chelsea Bridge

Tatamagouche...Next Left

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There are various reasons why the "Manhattan Bop Police" would disapprove of Tatamagouche...Next Left. First, Chelsea Bridge doesn't have a Manhattan address; the group is from Ottawa, Canada. Second, they don't play hard bop; their music is abstract, mildly avant-garde post-bop. And third, they don't inundate listeners with predictable versions of overdone warhorses. But for those who are not dogmatic and narrow-minded, Tatamagouche...Next Left has a lot to offer. Throughout this 1993 session, Chelsea Bridge has a major asset in vocalist Tena Palmer, who is as expressive as she is eccentric on risk-taking material like "Blues Not" and "The Slipped Jig Is Up." Palmer, an adventurous scat singer, excels whether she is getting into wordless vocals (which is quite often) or has lyrics to work with. Although Chelsea Bridge -- which also includes saxman Rob Frayne, double bassist John Geggie, and drummer Jean Martin -- embraces mostly original material, the Canadian foursome does interpret a few non-originals. One of them is "The Hymn," a Charlie Parker pearl that isn't among the alto icon's better-known pieces. While many "Young Lions" are content to offer knee-jerk, cliché-ridden versions of "Ornithology," "Yardbird Suite," or "Now's the Time," Chelsea Bridge deserves credit for doing some homework and unearthing a Bird composition that hasn't been beaten to death. Palmer and her colleagues also turn their attention to "Mary Had a Little Lamb"; unfortunately, this track is way too brief (less than a minute) and is not developed the way it should have been. Chelsea Bridge treats "Mary Had a Little Lamb" like a joke, which is regrettable because the group's arrangement of this children's song had potential. But that is the only disappointing track; otherwise, Tatamagouche...Next Left is excellent.

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