Producer Dawan Muhammad (here), in his liner notes to James Leary's Together, which features a top-flight roster of jazz luminaries, names Leary as one of the modern greats in bass playing (James also plays piano), heir to Pettiford and Mingus, and I won't argue him for a second, but, man, the cat's a truly adept writer as well! Every song here is his, and the bulk of compositions sound as though taken straight from The Great Era of the aforementioned cats alongside Kirk, Miles, Coltrane, and the giants we revere to this day. And why not? Leary's played with Basie's Orchestra, Hines, Hutcherson, Dizzy, Pharoah Sanders, and many others, including Rahsaan Roland himself. More, he's been in on stagings of the way killer Ain't Misbehavin', Eubie!, and other Broadway shows. So…one of the greats? No doubt whatsoever, and whatever you listen to jazz for, it's here, including plenty of Brazilian influences.
Dig the baseline line-up for the first half of the CD: Joe Henderson, George Cables, Eddie Marshall, and Kenneth Nash. Then there's Eric Reed, Billy Higgins, Oscar Brashear, and Babatunde Lea sitting later in plus horns and others all over; in other words: a small big band oft jazz orchestral (the second half of the disc is of smaller ensembles) and then group interaction. Solos everywere and interlocking charts abound. Then there are the change-ups, as in Twenty-Five/Mister X and its million-and-one surprises, an exercise in subverting audience expectations. Henderson goes nuts in Waltz for Monday, on a long solo tear (in fact, he's the essence of sax bliss throughout the CD)
I caught Larry "The Mole" Taylor a coupla times at the Whiskey in the 70s. playing for Mayall and for Pure Food & Drug Act. He must've been listening to Leary back then, as the two have a very uncommon approach, here heard most distinctly in Wajumbe, both in the intro and many insistent passages thereafter. No matter where you go in Together, however, you're greeted with a cornucopia of above the stratosphere playing, writing, and musical hijinks. Age may indeed bring wisdom, but it also imbues a thoroughgoing depth well beyond the pale of norms, though Leary manages to combine everything in a repast that is sure to snag jazz ears of every stripe.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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