Right off the bat, no less a player than Peter Erskine notes that Dick Weller is the L.A. 6's anchor, and he's more than right. Weller's an extremely dexterous cat going back to the older schools of Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Elvin Jones in a non-stop flurry of notes and transitions so smoothly executed that you barely have time to appreciate how damn good he is before he's on to the next set of articulations. However, bassist Jeff D'Angelo is right behind him, as nimble as the legendary Jack of elder candle lore, leaping back, forth, and all around the flaming taper. He, in fact, manages not only to co-cement the rhythm section but also paints any number of side canvases to Weller's work. Then pianist Rich Eames completes the trio—yep, L.A. 6 sports a rhythm triad—coloring everything up in chordal comping and punctuations.
The core of the group—and I hesitate to use that centralizing word because everyone gets all kinds of solo time, equally contributing to the success of each track—is the second trio: Clay Jenkins on trumpet, Ira Nepus on trombone, and Tom Peterson on tenor sax, a lyrical threesome who, as early seen in Wonder Where You Are, know how to buttress a ballad just as solidly as to bap out the be-bop: in the first case, with consummate grace, Eames especially scintillating in Wonder; in the second case, firing on, ironically enough, all six cylinders. Exec producer Graham Carter nailed it in calling the sextet a cross of West Coast Cool and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the kind of critical calibration I wished I'd come up with.
However, I'd even cite a bit of Crusaders in the gents as well, as I Wish I Knew is handled with that happy leashed exuberance the sacred old landmark ensemble was blessed with, an upbeat framework recurring again and again throughout Frame. And, lord, look at their backgrounds: Doc Severinson, Lou Rawls, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Paul McCartney, Yo-Yo Ma, and Pete Christlieb are just a few of the stellar names the gents have sat in with. No wonder the collective level of expertise is exponential, sails through the roof. This CD is chockablock with all the great straight-ahead discs of the last couple years celebrating the genius of the old masters and their inimitable gardens of ultra-sophisticated delights. I suspect the reforming wave is a reaction to earlier failures of so much of the acid jazz movement and other fairly vapid side avenues plainly wanting in true skills and cerebration, but, whether it is or not, I don't give a damn, just so long as material of this solid-as-hell caliber keeps coming down the pike.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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