Y'all, this is largely a horns album. Yeah, the combo's a quintet, and the other cats, especially the pianist, get their licks in, but the dominance of Kevin Woods on trumpet and Damani Phillips on alto sax starts out exhilarating as hell, drags me back to the excitement I felt when I discovered Steve Coleman and Greg Osby. The two pairs of players aren't the same but the élan, authenticity factors, chops, and top-notch smoothness and narrative in all phases of execution, whether fireballin' things in Woods' own title cut or laying back in the balladic Clarity, is exemplary. Phillips not only plays like a cat who knows the secrets of the trade but also holds a doctorate in Jazz Studies, one of the country's first African Americans to do so and a guy who's been playing since age 10. Woods is an educator, as well as a swiftly rising trumpeter and no cut here leaves any doubt as to why that is. Minor Suggestions, however, is not the backbone of Minor Suggestions, as there's a lot of thoughtfulness goin' on everywhere, esp. in Blues for Mingus.
That track was written by the third gent I referred to, Danny McCollim, the keyboardist. He's no slouch either and has played with a very wide variety of bands from Cab Calloway's to Steve Smith's to The Platters. Immaculately sure-fingered and as likely to bop as waltz, the guy's never caught off guard, keeping up with the frontmen's horns without needing to catch a breath when things are hot and heavy, sliding back into cool elegance when they're not. I hear a lot of Corea in him, with Evans whispering in Chick's ear as Oscar Peterson leans over the shoulders of everyone. The band's highly lyrical, Sunset's Last Embrace a very good example, but also gets into the righteously slew-footed side of things, as in Curly, a cut composed by bass player John Hamar (as was Clarity).
The drummer, Julian MacDonough, is a very mellow guy, flanking Hamar with quiet aplomb, and the true-est root of the rhythm section. None of the cuts are under 5-1/2 minutes, Blues for Mingus a full 10:52, so there's plenty of time for the listener to check out each and every player. Pushed to place the Minor Suggestions disc era-wise, I'd put it in the post-Miles/Mingus/Monk/etc. period when traditions had been established, beach-heads were still being chanced upon, and savvy players wanted a little bit of everything in their musical lives, focusing on great playing and fooling around with, while respecting, melodics. In that last respect, Phillips is particularly adept, often sly, and I suspect he grins like the cat that got the cream when he can pull off a clever transposition making everyone scratch their heads while smiling. He does that more often than is at first evident.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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