Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
A lonely masterpiece
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 02/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've always liked Sonny Criss's saxophone playing, while finding myself rarely all that satisfied with his albums as a whole, which are full of nice blowing without pushing over into classic status. The big exception is _Sonny's Dream_, one of the best postwar little-big band discs I've heard. It's a debut disc of sorts for pianist/arranger Horace Tapscott--he doesn't play on it (piano duties are handled by the always-wonderful Tommy Flanagan) but wrote & arranged all the music, & conducted the orchestra. Like Sun Ra & Mingus he favours a low, dark instrumentation--the ensembles are characterized by prominent use of baritone sax & tuba--& it's clear that Tapscott had closely studied Mingus's work, especially _Black Lady & the Sinner Saint_. Tapscott's arrangements typically feature deceptively atmospheric introductions, before they unleash an intense, cathartic central improvisational section. The effects can be devastating, especially on the title-track & on "The Black Apostles", a raw memorial to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X & Medgar Evers. Criss's keening alto takes (so to speak) the Dolphy/Mariano role on the album, & he even plays some soprano--& does it so well (without any facile Traneisms--actually he sounds more like Roland Kirk) that I wish he'd recorded more often on that instrument. For sheer electricity it's hard to beat his solo on the Milesish modal tune "Sandy and Niles".
It's a great band, & while the focus is very much on Criss several of the other players get solos also, notably Teddy Edwards and Tommy Flanagan. The lineup is: David Sherr, alto; Teddy Edwards, tenor; Pete Christlieb, baritone; Conte Candoli, trumpet; Dick Nash, trombone; Ray Draper, tuba; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Al McKibbon, bass (check out his introductory solo on "Daughter of Cochise"!); Everett Brown, Jr, drums. The original album was very short--36 minutes long--but the CD is beefed up with two alternate takes which are actually (unlike a lot of alternate takes!) a welcome addition to the album.
The sad thing about this album is that it's a one-off. There ought to have been a lot more Criss albums this good. Hats off to the late Horace Tapscott for having brokered this masterpiece, anyway."