Taking definite cues from the Blue Note-Riverside strain of '50s & '60s jazz, California tenor and soprano saxophonist Velasco hits on winning combinations of original material derived from the post-to-hard bop movement. The music has a fresh tinge, as if it were made of love and respect for that tradition, yet determined to say something new. Velasco is joined by trumpeter Kyle Palmer, pianist Ken Treseder, bassist Toby Holmes and drummer Jimmy Ford. Writing is split between the band members, of the nine cuts the leader wrote five. The title track is a 10½-minute, easygoing, beautiful midnight-blue theme showing no strain whatsoever. Velasco displays a unique, legato soprano sax sound. "The Underside" pledges allegianace to a classic good old 12-bar blues shuffle a la Art Blakey; "Cuidado" falls between a small swing and Afro-Cuban montuno, with Velasco on a more typical-sounding soprano; "The Incredible Mr. T" (for Stanley Turrentine?) is an easy blues/funk with more animated, squawky soprano, and the supercharged, scattered and quirky free-boppish "Hyped Up" lives up to its title. Treseder and Palmer penned two apiece. The pianist contributes "Not Even the Rain Has Such Small Hands" -- with alternating ostinato bass and light swing, inducing easy 4/4 and slight bossa on the prettiest of multiple melodies -- as well as the very nice, basic ballad "Still Here." Palmer's bright trumpet sound is evident during his waltz "Remember When," sporting calculated mezzo-piano to mezzo-forte dynamic variance, but his hot ticket is the introductory track "Turning Point." Urgent, tick-tock swing and chiming piano chords, melted on a breezy melody and clarion brass, help focus Velasco's tenor sound, which showcases the best melodic attributes of Sonny Rollins and the harmonic deference of Joe Henderson. This is a recording that wears well upon repeated listenings, and a very fine first offering for Velasco and his L.A. area cohorts. Palmer and Treseder also bear close watch in their own right as budding jazz stars in Y2K. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos