By John Murph | Published December 2018
After lending his considerable trumpet chops to an array of luminaries’ work, including Ray Charles, Ray Barretto and Frank Sinatra, 52-year-old John Bailey emerges as a solo artist. Notching about 30 years of experience in the music biz is no small feat, but evolving from a journeyman to distinguished solo talent is no easy task, either.
The bandleader’s tone on In Real Time is warm and his improvisations brim with fluid, rhythmic agility while retaining a sense of melodic cogency and harmonic invention. Inside all of that lies a maturity that comes across through his well-paced soloing and suspenseful phrasing. He knows how to pen delightful material, too. The disc’s stylistic focal point is mostly modern post-bop with some subtle Latin rhythms lurking beneath. On uptempo pieces, like the intricate “Triplicity” or the spry “Stepping Up,” Bailey and his band boast the joyful aplomb reminiscent of classic Clifford Brown LPs. Drummer Victor Lewis and bassist Cameron Brown keep Bailey and his frontline saxophone partner Stacy Dillard swinging forcefully, yet comfortably, while guitarist John Hart provides economical harmonic padding and additional rhythmic bite.
Bailey’s brightest moment on In Real Time occurs on the bewitching ballad “Lovely Planet.” Brown initiates the piece with a ruminative bass solo, which gives way to Bailey’s pensive melody that grows more emotionally persuasive once Dillard and Hart slide underneath with accompanying variations of the melody. That glowing performance alone—and there are plenty more—offers ample proof that Bailey might have even brighter moments to come.
In Real Time: Rhapsody; My Man Louis!; Triplicity; Lovely Planet; Blues For Ella; Morro Velho; Stepping Up; Children’s Waltz; Ensaio Geral. (54:21)
Personnel: John Bailey, trumpet, flugelhorn (8); Stacy Dillard, tenor, soprano saxophone; John Hart, guitar; Cameron Brown, bass; Victor Lewis, drums; Janet Axelrod, flute (6); Leo Grinhauz, cello (6).