Like and Eager Child
Maybe a little introduction is in order here. I grew up in Bethel Park, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The earliest music education I can recall was listening to "Hit Parade" on the radio and learning to sing all the tunes. When I started piano lessons at age 8, my teacher, Frank McQuown, invested more time in theory and solfeggio than in keyboard training itself, for which I'm now very grateful. Thanks, Frank.
I took up trombone entering junior high, having listened to Dorsey, Miller and Teagarden. Eddie Bert was the first post-swing era trombonist I ever heard, and the impact of that hasn't left me. During high school I played in the requisite bands (no "jazz" bands back then), and did most of my musical growing with my good pal, Ron Leibfreid.
After high school I choose to pursue a career in electrical engineering rather than in music. Since then, music education has been mostly "in the barrel." During my freshman year at MIT, 1958, I was fortunate to play in a little band with Chick Corea, then a high school senior. In my subsequent 20 years in Boston I had the opportunity to work with a number of fine musicians, among whom Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, Jimmy Mosher, Paul Fontaine, Gene DiStasio, Hal Crook, Greg Hopkins, Claudio Roditi, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, George Mraz, John Lockwood and Jimmy Derba provide dear memories.
In 1968 I returned to MIT to start a doctoral program, where as a member of the MIT jazz band I learned from a true master, Herb Pomeroy, how to rehearse a band. My only other formal music education consisted of Herb's two writing courses at Berklee. Thirty years later, I still review my notes from his classes before starting to write anything. In 1970 I took a short break from school to go on the road playing lead bone for Buddy Rich. The stories are legion; ask me sometime. But I did return and finished school.
In 1977 employment led me to the Washington, DC area. Among my many good musician friends here, the influence of a few has been a lot more than casual: Rick Henderson, Walt Salb, Bob Lehman, Don Junker, Doug Elliott, Mike Crotty, Dave Steinmeyer, Rick Lillard, Joe Jackson and Matt Neiss. Better yet, DC is where I met my sweet wife Julie, who's seen me through 19 years now and will hopefully get me through many more.
For my first self-produced project, I wanted to work with friends whose abilities are beyond question. The three players that make this band a true quartet exceeded all expectations and achieved a result in which we can all take pride.
Dave Kane is a noted pianist, composer and arranger in the Washington DC area. Dave has written scores for National Geographic's Explorer series and has composed for and played with several symphony orchestras, including the National. He lays claim to a number of "serious" orchestral and chamber works. His jazz recordings include two CDs of his own, as well as disks with Dave Leibman, Craig Fraederich, Pam Bricker and others. Dave's performed with the likes of Woody Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie, the Duke Ellington band, Nancy Wilson and Charlie Byrd.
The most concise way to give Steve Novosel's credentials would be to list all the people he hasn't played with, but his three years with Roland Kirk in the late 60's are of special note. Living in northern Virginia, Steve remains a fixture on the New York scene and has a national-plus reputation. His conception of the pieces in this set is remarkable, and that certainly helped us do more with less studio time than I could have imagined.
Allison Miller is a young percussionist on her way to great things. Maybe because of her, this CD will be a collector's item when she's 35. Here she is at 24, playing with precision and feel usually found only in players of considerably more experience. Allison is a student of everything in the music, and didn't need a lot of direction about what to play during these sessions. From Maryland, Allison now resides in New York City, where she's doing a relatively poor imitation of the starving artist, since her phone keeps ringing. A recent agreement with Pearl Drums will put her on the national map even faster.
I couldn't single out all the great contributions these folks made, but a few are worthy of repeat listening. Dave's playing on Yes and No, where he just can't fall out of the groove no matter what. And the way he develops the mood on Miyako. Steve's great solo and broken time rhythms behind Dave on Miyako, where he holds off the urge to drive into a straight three until the last four bars of the solo. Allison's two choruses on Rio con Brio, and the pulse she sets up and holds in every mood and style. Thank you, people.
This CD project is motivated by just one thought: to play uncompromisingly good music at the level this band can achieve today. In selecting the takes that you'll hear, I always went for the ones with the most inspired playing and didn't worry about any mechanical errors that happened. As a result it's treated more like a live session than a studio bash.
Just a couple of comments on the material. Two of my compositions carry dedications. Time and Eternity is for Julie-she knows what the title means. I kind of monopolize this one, as a dutiful husband should. This is my love ballad to one great and very special lady. And Sores and Blisters is dedicated to Bill Watrous. The title doesn't refer to the condition of a trombonist's chops after trying to play like Bill, although it very well could. If you've ever attended one of Bill's clinics, you'll get it. If not, next time you run into him (or me), ask about Jason's turtle. The tune was conceived on a mountain in the Shenandoah, and its mood reflects the nice straight-ahead, relaxed feeling I had at the time.
It's a pleasure to play compositions by Wayne Shorter and Bill Evans, two of the people who made the 60's and 70's a great era in the music. These pieces are an improvisor's dream. The CD title comes from the Bill Evans piece, Very Early, whose lyrics I first heard on Don Sebesky's recent tribute to Bill. May we all play more compositions and fewer "heads" in the future. Then there's Hal Crook, composer of Bluezo. Hal's been a good friend and inspiration for many years, and I know he's one of the most creative artists ever to pick up a trombone. Go listen to his compositions. You won't regret it.
As I reflect on what I hear in this recording, the specters of a lot of giants appear, and I'm grateful to those many influences who helped shape my approach to the horn. There are certainly a few licks ripped from Mr. Bill (Watrous) here. And there's a vibrato at the end of the opening chorus of Miyako that could have come only from Phil Wilson. Bolstered by Hal Crook's recorded examples I mustered up the nerve to go "pianoless" on two tunes, and started to understand a little about an idiom he's mastered. And finally, thanks to the two undeniable greats who really started it all for me, Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana. They're here too.
"Very early I came running, like an eager child. Love was all I ever asked for, love came wondrous and wild."
The Tunes (notes by Bill Watrous)
I Should Care - On this great Sammy Cahn tune, Rich plays four choruses with a modulation almost every eight bars, a nice trick if you can do it. The rhythm section is capable and thoughtful throughout.
Bluezo - by Hal Crook, just cooks at a good medium tempo, which just suits Rich perfectly. The duet with Allison is really creative, with lots of twists and turns here and there.
Miyako- Here Rich does a lovely statement of the melody. Dave Kane and Steve Novosel create a very warm and introspective mood following Rich's melody. Rich returns with some statements of his own which are thoughtful and probing, before returning to the melody statement.
Sores and Blisters - This tune is a bluesy romp, or better yet, a stroll through the hills and meadows. This has a very interesting set of chord changes, which Sir Richard maneuvers very well, with some nice excursions in all directions. God help anyone who becomes hampered by the condition that the tune title suggests. Thanks, Rich!
Yes and No - Very exciting playing comes from the leader here. There's very smooth articulation and good control of this medium up tempo throughout. There are superb solos on this. Dave Kane is indeed a superb musician, as is evident on this track, as well as throughout the album. Allison is superb, driving this piece all the way.
La Paz de mi Soleldad - This soulful bossa sails very smoothly, with Rich doing very effective work, alternating double time playing with good even eighths in the improvisation. I like the way the trio listens to the soloist and reacts accordingly. Rich returns with the melody statement and this composition exits with a cooking board fade.
Spring Will be a Littlle Late This Year - Rich employs a humorous, wry statement here of the melody, followed by a duet with Steve that is superb. Allison joins in, and the excursion continues, with Rich getting into some clean double time figures. Rich adds some sotto voce comments under the first bass chorus. Rich does not seem to run out of chops!
Time and Eternity - I consider this piece my personal favorite on this CD. The composition has a really sensitive flow, and Rich is at his most mellow mood throughout. Julie has to be pleased with this. I enjoy the personal restraint that Rich displays here, as he bespeaks a really gentle picture of how he feels about Julie.
Very Early - This is a graceful three-quarter time piece by my most favorite piano player, Bill Evans. I heard him perform this with his group in New York, and it was mesmerizing, to say the least! Rich and the trio are well up to the level of the demands of this work. Rich plays a superb solo, as do Dave and Steve. I enjoy the statement concluding this piece.
Rio con Brio - This is a crisp samba which opens with Rich stating the melody, followed by Dave for a while, and then Allison comes in for a crisp statement of her own. Rich comes roaring in with good, clean thought. Back to Allison for a great solo. She has excellent time, which is evident throughout the project.
All in all, this is a very ambitious and well thought out piece of work by Rich Orr and his superb group. This is a nice contribution to the cause of trombone devotees!
- Bill Watrous -
Like an Eager Child
The Rich Orr Quartet
TOTAL TIME: 67:08
All arrangements by Rich Orr
RICH ORRtrombone DAVE KANE piano (except tracks 2 & 7)
STEVE NOVOSELbass ALLISON MILLER drums
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