Jon Faddis,
(Koch, 2006)

Jon Faddis was born a few years too late to have the large audience he deserves. He honed his skills as the best of Dizzy Gillespie's many proteges at a time when rock was already selling out stadiums and even college students were losing interest in jazz. He remains an extraordinary player, however, and Teranga includes some of his best recorded work.

The rhythm section of Jon's regular quartet appears on eight of nine tracks (pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Dion Parson). Four cuts include various guest artists. Jon wrote eight of the nine tunes on the album. The exception is Benny Carter's "The Courtship."

"Teranga" is a Senegalese word meaning roughly "hospitality," and the album reflects Faddis's belief that we should think of ourselves as part of an extended family, ready to help those in need, ready to teach our skills to those who want to learn them. He has dedicated the album and many of its compositions to those who have played a part in his long career or whom he particularly admires.

Jon kicks things off with his regular quartet in "The Hunters & Gatherers," a notably Gillespieish tune and performance with a jungly feeling in the bass line. The trumpet begins muted. The mute comes out after a piano chorus, and Faddis begins to show his Ferguson and Cat Anderson-like chops with effortless and dead-on-key, stratospheric screams and runs. The natives are restless.

It's muted trumpet all the way on the more up-tempo second track, "Hey Lalo," which is even closer in feeling to Dizzy, his bebop-founding mentor. The tune honors the Argentine composer and arranger Lalo Schifrin. Next comes "Waltz for My Fathers & Brothers," a gentle song that sounds like it could have been written by Thad Jones, the second of Jon's main trumpet-playing mentors. Faddis played in Jones's big band when he was just in his teens. The dedication this time was to the outstanding tenor-man Michael Brecker, who was already suffering from the disease that recently caused his much-lamented death. Jon uses the softer-sounding flugelhorn to match the mood.

The title tune returns to an African feel, and for the first time guests are added to the basic quartet -- two cooking African drummers plus Frank Wess on a mysterious and sultry flute.

The word "urbane" never fit anyone better than composer Benny Carter and it's back to the quartet and mute for an oh-so-suave "The Courtship," played as a delicious light samba. The second guest track is "The Fibble-ow Blues." It features the instantly recognizable Clark Terry on flugelhorn. Faddis and Terry first converse in brass, then Terry gets into his inimitable version of nonsense-words scat while Faddis provides a vocal obbligato. Most things that might be called a novelty act fail the repeated-listens test, but CT is so musical and has such a sense of humor that I never tire of one of his mumbling doubletalk-bits. Faddis's affection is apparent as well.

Next it's another samba-lite, this time with just the duo of Faddis and guitarist Russell Malone. Then the quartet returns for one more outing before the album concludes with an up-tempo "The Baron," dedicated to Jon's longtime friend, pianist Kenny Barron. The popular New York baritone-sax player Gary Smulyan makes it a quintet for this final romp.

Jon Faddis is a fine composer and has total control of his horn. This is one of those sessions that sounds better and better the more you listen to it. Highly recommended.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Ron Bierman

21 July 2007

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