Bill Cunliffe: Port Authority

In the ongoing debate about which jazz recordings merit elevation to the status of "classic," there are few (other than Kind of Blue) that enjoy a consensus among jazz pundits. But Oliver Nelson's 1961 album The Blues and the Abstract Truth clearly makes the cut, having given us the immortal "Stolen Moments" among its five other unforgettable tracks. In tackling the daunting task of re-creating this cool-hot blue gem of an album, pianist Bill Cunliffe took it a step farther by adding two compositions of his own, keeping both in the spirit and context of the original six sides.

One of these originals, "Port Authority," seems to have jumped out of Nelson's head and picked up where the classic album ended. Bill Cunliffe's efficient arranging skills take full advantage of this octet, resulting in a sound that suggests a much larger ensemble. In this urban romp he creates ample dissonant tension within the hard-boppish head before unleashing the solos through a swinging 32-bar blues form, where these superb players establish beyond a doubt that "authority" is indeed their modus operandi while cruising the deep blues. A special treat is Mark Ferber's edgy drum solo, which safely pilots the ensemble back to port. Admiral Nelson would surely approve.

November 16, 2008 · 0 comments


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