Tompkins Square Records has once more put its money where its heart is and succeeded in bringing to the surface an American master musician. Saxophonist, pianist, and composer Giuseppi Logan has been completely off the radar since the 1970s after recording a pair of brilliant albums for ESP -- the last of which was 45 years ago! -- until he was discovered playing "Begin the Beguine" in Tompkins Square Park for tips. His story is incredible; in short, after being beset by personal problems, he’d been away from music entirely, homeless, and living in institutions, shelters, and on the streets for decades; he was thought to be dead.
Producer Josh Rosenthal assembled a killer band for this date, including two members of Logan's original quartet: pianist Dave Burrell and drummer Warren Smith. The group is rounded out by go-to bassist Francois Grillot, and trumpeter, bass clarinetist (and the man who helped to bring Logan back to the surface), Matt Lavelle. Of the eight tracks here, five are Logan originals. His highly individual sense of phrasing, intonation, and spacious improvising is evident from the set’s opening cut, “Steppin.” Burrell -- one of the most chameleon-like pianists in the game -- plays both forcefully in laying a solid foundation, yet gracefully with an inherent lyricism. Lavelle proves an excellent frontline foil. He understands Logan's unconventional sense of time and stretched harmonies. It’s on the outside a bit, but it pops, and the rhythm section makes it swing like mad. “Around,” a ballad, is more out, but also gorgeous with its lilting melody and striated harmonics. “Modes" features some wonderful interplay between Lavelle’s bass clarinet and Logan’s horn. Of the three covers, two are wildly individual -- but recognizable -- readings of standards “Over the Rainbow” and “Blue Moon.” The other is Miles Davis' “Freddie Freeloader” with some limber up-and-down-the-registers work by Logan. The knottiest and most muscular tune is “Bop Dues,” which literally swaggers with physicality and drive. Logan plays piano on “Blue Moon“ and on his brief closer, “Love Me Tonight,” where he sings in a ragged but intensely moving voice. By any measure, The Giuseppi Logan Quintet is an astonishing comeback record because of its sheer virtuosic facility, Logan's composing and playing so finely wrought, it's as if he never left! With this fine band behind him, we can only hope there is much more to come from him.