Pound Cake Review

Duck Baker NYCJR

This record stands out from the solid fare that SteepleChase is known for, owing to the presence of the great Ted Brown on tenor saxophone. Now in his eighth   decade as a professional musician, Brown looks and sounds ready to work for at least a couple more.

Brown’s frontline partner here is cornetist Kirk Knuffke, a well-grounded player whose style is a little hotter than cool and a little cooler than hardbop and who can also evoke earlier stylists like Bobby Hackettand such modernists as Dave Douglas. Knuffke favors long melodic lines that he breaks up with double-time bursts or punctuates with smears and he also displays an impish sense of humor. It’s a joy to hear the cornet on tunes like Brown’s “Jazz of Two Cities” and
“Featherbed”, long twisty lines in the Lennie Tristanoschool tradition, because, for whatever reason, brass players have not often been heard playing in this style.
If we think of early records by Tristano-ites, it was usually all saxes, as it was when Warne Marsh and Brown first recorded “Jazz of Two Cities” in 1956. At that point, Brown’s style represented a sort of middle ground between that of Marsh and Lester Young’s cool-school disciples and this remains true. The influence of Young seems even stronger than before and Brown has developed a tendency to ride over and around the rhythm that is subtle and very attractive.

The two horns complement each other well and the piano-less quartet leaves things nice and open. Drummer Matt Wilson uses all the shades on his timbral palette to color the background and bassist John Hébert holds the bottom down admirably, filling up the void left by the absence of chordal accompaniment without overdoing it.

by Duck Baker