By Scott Yanow | Published February 2022
Veteran trombonist-composer Ed Neumeister definitely fits into his own musical category. While his history includes being a member of the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, the Mel Lewis Orchestra and Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band, he also spent 17 years teaching and working in Europe, wrote for films while based in Los Angeles, and along the way developed his own individual approach to improvising and writing for jazz-based groups.
On What Have I Done?, Neumeister’s compositions utilize what he calls “harmonic references” rather than chord changes, the notes in his melodies are unusual, and many of the improvisations are based on new and invented chords and scales. Each of the members of his quartet is an important part of the often-rhythmic melody statements rather than being accompanists to his trombone. Their colorful and concise solos uplift the music with the improvisations being a logical extension of Neumeister’s pieces.
Suffice it to say that one does not leave What Have I Done? whistling any of the melodies. The six very brief “PickledGinger” selections (all but one are 16 seconds or less) are excerpts from a free improvisation. Of some of the eight full-length pieces, “Riverwalk” is a jazz waltz inspired by Neumeister’s walks around the Passaic River in New Jersey, “Inclusion” shifts moods and tempos a few times, and the energetic “Ridgewood” has one of Gary Versace’s most inventive piano solos of the project.
What Have I Done?: Riverwalk; PickledGinger 1; Gratitude; PickledGinger 2; Acclimation Park; PickledGinger 3; Ridgewood; PickledGinger 4; Renate; PickledGinger 5; Inclusion; PickledGinger 6; Chill’n; What Have I Done? (50:45)
Personnel: Ed Neumeister, trombone; Gary Versace; piano; Drew Gress, bass; Tom Rainey, drums.
Ordering Info: edneumeister.com