Speak Your Truth
Liven Up Jazz Productions
With today’s technology allowing just about anyone to record and release music from the comfort of home, you’d think much of what is released would be amateurish to just plain awful. It’s not true. I receive a lot of CD releases in the mail. Most have not been requested by me and almost all come from independent artists who are not particularly famous away from home. I’ve been writing music reviews since the Sixties, and online now for a dozen years. I’m constantly surprised, and very pleasantly, when I open a new release and start listening. In general, the quality of these releases is as good as anything released in earlier years, and some of it is among the best I’ve heard. This brings us to Perry Conticchio’s Speak Your Truth.
Eight of the twelve songs here were composed by Conticchio, and the remaining four are arranged by him. Jazz composition, and to some degree arrangement of jazz works, requires very special skills. Based on this suite of songs, Conticchio has honed his skills well and is a consummate master of his form. Performed by six musicians at the top of their form, these songs are fully rounded and seamless, flowing across the listener with gentle dexterity. The effect is not of a dozen single songs played in isolation but of a full, rich jazz suite that includes all of these songs in just the right sequence.
While saxman Conticchio takes the lead in many of the songs, he also gives his colleagues plenty of room to strut their stuff. The combo at the core of this music is tight and refined with excellent, well-balanced performances by Conticchio on tenor and soprano sax, Rodney Richardson on guitar, Andrew Elliot Cox on acoustic bass, and Lawrence “bubbles” Dean on drums. Joseph Brotherton plays trumpet on two songs and Wayne Wilentz plays piano on two others. The trumpet and piano blend organically into the mix, never sounding extra or added-in. All of this is a tribute to both Conticchio’s skill as an arranger and the talents of the musicians with whom he works.
While it never sounds dated in any way, this music does have an old feel. I’m reminded of the jazz I was buying on albums during the Sixties and early-Seventies. Although the sound of the songs is unified and the set holds together very well, Conticchio seems to have pulled in elements from a number of the jazz variations of mid-century and made musical allusions to several more, creating his own brand of subtle fusion. It’s in his particular blend of styles that this music sounds fresh and new.
Besides Conticchio’s refined sax sound, this release features exceptional playing and outstanding moments featuring the other musicians. There are some impressive solos on bass and drums, cool piano bits, very Wes Montgomery sounding guitar, trumpet that at times takes me back to Bobby Hackett, and much more. Because of these many high points, this music welcomes the close listener who has a taste for excellence in jazz performance. At the same time, this is quiet club-jazz well suited to become background for a quiet meal and conversation or to be played at home while cuddling in front of the fireplace.
While I enjoy listening to this set, I keep thinking how much more enjoyable it would be to walk into a club somewhere and discover Perry Conticchio and the boys on stage. It would be a pleasure to watch such a masterful group of musicians at work. If you can’t make it to a live performance, then this CD is the next best thing.
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