When a CD arrives that is seventy two minutes long, as a reviewer, I can be a little apprehensive. I have to listen to the whole thing before I can say anything and that’s more than an hour invested. So it helps if the CD has praise from someone like Benny Golson on the back of the jewel case.
This was the case when I received Dues in Progress by Keith Oxman, released in 2006 on The CAPRI Records label. Benny Golson said, "I’m quite impressed since I constantly hear music of all kinds. Dues in Progress is a great CD which speaks in a stentorian voice which is unmistakable. The music is a bit different which makes it readily stand out. It makes for a wonderful listening experience." You can’t buy that kind of review. So when I put the CD on for a spin and listen I expected something of a treat.
It was like my birthday used to be when I was a kid. Wait for the gift LP with bated breath; put it on; have a near out of body experience; and play it until the grooves were gone. This album cooks from the opening line of "I Hear a Rhapsody" until the final chord of "Thirty One for Strayhorn," which by the way, is one of the six original compositions Mr. Oxman wrote for this CD.
Dues in Progress has twelve tracks which means that six of the songs are by other composers but the arrangements make them all brand new. I have played the album from beginning to end six times already and I haven’t found anything to criticize about any aspect of the program. In fact I keep hearing new and exciting things that I missed in earlier listenings.
In addition to their duties on trombone and trumpet, respectively, Curtis Fuller and Marcus Hampton each contributed an original tune. Mr. Fuller’s "Cap’N Kid" is a jazzy piece of calypso that begs you to get up and dance. Marcus Hampton contributes "C.H.O.C.," which is a quintessential groove tune, listen to it and you will see what I mean.
Naturally the album soars because of the performances by the musicians who include, in addition to Keith Oxman on saxophone, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass, Todd Reid on drums, Peter Cooper on oboe, Al Hood on trumpet, and Marcus Hampton on trumpet. While these may not be names that are familiar to all music lovers, once heard they will be sought out. Each one is a master musician and a brilliant ensemble player. The solos show how good each of these guys is and the ensemble work is flawless.
One player who I have found revealing more with each listen is Chip Stephens whose piano playing is nuanced, tasty and inspiring. He is a master at comping and that is the glue that holds performances together.
A special treat is that Benny Golson wrote the liner notes. In his notes he explains this album exactly as I would, if I had his talent, experience, ear for music, knowledge of technique, and deep insight into creating aural artistry. So rather than try to do what he has done magnificently I recommend that as soon as you buy this "absolute must have CD" you read what Benny Golson wrote. It will add to your listening experience which should be a pure joy.