By Michele L. Simms-Burton | Published April 2019
Producer Marc Free has accomplished his goal of recalling the 1950s blue period and capturing its nuances, while constructing an accessible and pleasurable album with a sextet that paints with broad and intricate strokes, tells a story and gets funky.
From the first note of Alexa Tarantino’s alto saxophone during the opener, “Slick,” to Art Hirahara’s masterful harmonics on “Aoi Blu” and drummer Rudy Royston dropping the opening beat on closer “New Direction,” listeners know something has shifted—in a good way. If a gap exists between that blue period and today, this album bridges any perceived gulf.
Nick Finzer’s trombone exudes liquid brass on the opener, and the sextet cooks on “Coppertone,” its bass line front-and-center amid a catchy melody, and the harmonic playing of saxophonists Tarantino and Sam Dillon. A cool vibe marinates in “Stunts And Twists,” Hirahara’s crystal-like opening, bassist Boris Kozlov’s punctuations, Royston’s swishing and Finzer’s accenting set the mood for Tarantino and Dillon to meld tonality and color, creating layered complexity.
Some of the compositions here originated on earlier Posi-Tone releases, and others were newly penned by Hirahara, Royston, Dillon and Tarantino. There’s likely a more sophisticated way of saying Maximum Enjoyment delivers on its title’s promise. But let’s applaud Free’s ability to bring these performers together to create memorable music that sounds fresh, while remaining grounded in something old, familiar and intriguing.
Maximum Enjoyment: Slick; Coppertone; Stunts And Twists; Aoi Blu; Overcooked; Vast; Breeze; Cluster Funk; Shift; Why Aren’t You Excited; New Directions. (54:10)
Personnel: Alexa Tarantino, alto saxophone; Nick Finzer, trombone; Sam Dillon, tenor saxophone; Art Hirahara, piano; Boris Kozlov, bass; Rudy Royston, drums.