By Ed Enright | Published September 2020
This live album by the working quartet of flugelhornist Marvin Stamm, pianist Mike Holober, bassist Mike McGuirk and drummer Dennis Mackrel documents a late-2019 gig at Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in the Hudson River town of Nyack, New York. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: four well-established artists playing the music they love in an intimate jazz club for an appreciative audience. They engage in the type of dynamic, in-the-moment interplay that’s only possible among musicians who perform together regularly and listen to each other closely, letting each tune evolve organically as they anticipate each other’s moves and react to any and all sounds of surprise. All four players draw from deep reserves of bandstand experience and demonstrate thorough knowledge of the straightahead jazz canon; they speak the same language with remarkable fluency, and always seem to have appropriate musical references—whether serious or lighthearted—at the ready.
The quartet falls together on a medium-tempo swing as the programs starts with Horace Silver’s “Out Of The Night Came You,” setting the mood for the evening with a walking bass line, a laid-back swing feel, double-time blowing and playful trading. The standard “Invitation” opens with an attention-getting upright bass improv by McGuirk, a powerful presence on the album who makes full use of the instrument’s tonal palette and melodic capabilities; I found myself looking forward to every one of his solos, and there are a lot of them here to enjoy.
A straight-eighth groove drives the Holober original “Morning Hope” as Mackrel knocks the rims with a light touch and McGuirk’s bass figures create an undertow of sustain and suspension. “All The Things You Are” is taken as a fast jazz waltz, with Holober’s rhythmically aggressive piano madness juxtaposed against Stamm’s dark, subdued sound in the flugel’s middle-to-low range. Things calm down quite a bit for a meditative reading of Silver’s prayerful ballad “Peace,” and the group’s take on Bill Evans’ “Funkallero” is a bright post-bop romp that plays up the fun factor and, in retrospect, celebrates the feel-good vibe of a welcoming club environment in the pre-coronavirus era.