THE EBONY BRASS QUINTET:
Fans of the Modern Jazz Quartet or the Canadian Brass Quintet, take special notice. EBQ melds the instrumentation of a classical quintet (two trumpets, trombone, Frech horn and tuba) into a mellow, new jazz sound. “Their tone is exquisite, the ensemble work airtight, and they can swing like crazy, too…enchanting music, breathtakingly well-recorded,” according to Fi. A FiSuper Disc. (#03032)
Eddy Allen, 1st trumpet
reviewed by Fred Kaplan
Now here's a minimally miked, live-to-2-track, purist, analog recording that sounds about as real as CD can manage these days: the Ebony Brass Quintet's Brand New Bag [Mapleshade]. Two trumpets, a trombone, a French horn, and tuba sit in a semi-circle, joined on a couple tunes by a drummer or by baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett (of the World Saxophone Quartet, who produced this disc). You can see and hear everything they play and do, you can sense the mouthpieces and horns vibrating, you can tell which way the bells are pointing Ü and all these sounds mingle up in the air, in a single bloom, like a fresh bouquet. There is a hall-like, not an electronic, reverberation, and that's because they are playing at the bottom of a stairwell-entranceway with a very high ceiling. Putting the players out in the hall Ü that's Mapleshade proprietor engineer Pierre Sprey's idea of an "echo machine."
This lifelike sound would count for nothing if the music weren't worth listening to, and the line-up, on paper anyway, does make one wonder. Chamber jazz? Sometimes interesting, usually pretty dry. Well, Brand New Bag is not dry at all and much more than interesting. These are superb, classically trained musicians who are also professional jazz players; their tone is exquisite, the ensemble work airtight, and they can swing like crazy too. Their work as arrangers is also first-rate: covers of tunes like Round Midnight, Wayne Shorter's Nefertiti, and Thad Jones's A Child Is Born breathe as if new. A few originals, most notably trombonist Alfred Patterson's dedication to Langston Hughes, deserve to become standards themselves. Only the group's take on James Brown's Papa's Got A Brand New Bag comes off a bit strained.
So, a double surprise: unexpectedly enchanting music, breathtakingly well-recorded. All too rare a combination but enough to keep us going. (Mapleshade 03032)
Edited by Hi-Finthen - 5/11/13 at 9:29am