The Mark Masters Ensemble celebrates the music of jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman in the group’s latest release Farewell Walter Dewey Redman. Reminiscent of the big band sound that drove dancer/actress Cyd Sharisse to move in a provocative and graceful manner across the dance floor in such films as Sombrero and Silk Stockings, the Mark Masters Ensemble hit what Redman was after, right on the nail. The group shows precision in their foot work, and long-legged limbs, exhibiting a flow of movement that accentuates each rippling crest in the horns and every stretched-out frame infused with the jittery locution of the piano keys. The spellbinding feel of the music seduces the listener slowly as it goes from moving with the stealth-like agility of a thief in the night to the lounging drift of a cruise ship over the even seas
The disc features saxophonist Oliver Lake taking on Redman’s role in the tracks and joined by the alluring stylings of pianist Milcho Leviev, trumpeter Tim Hagans, upright bass player Dave Carpenter, flutist-saxophonist Gary Foster, trombonist Dave Woodley, and drummer Peter Erskine. The initial plan for the album was to be a record by Masters and Redman back in 2006, but Redman succumbed to liver failure and passed away before the album could be recorded. Farewell Walter Dewey Redman honors Redman’s work which includes Masters arrangement for seven of Redman’s compositions along with two tracks "Transits" and "Adieu Mon Redman" written by the quartet of Lake, Hagans, Carpenter, and Erskine, one jazz standard "My One And Only Love" penned by Guy Wood and Robert Mellin, and one song "Sitatunga" by Mark Masters.
The dramatic lines of "Dewey’s Tune" portray expressive horns and lightly tumbling bass rolls which become a theme continually revisited throughout the album. "I-Pimp" has flashing horns and glamorously jeweled jazz swivels, whereas "Boody" has a flirtatious appeal with sultry horns and swiftly moving piano keys. "Le Clit" and "Transits" have a more avant garde approach with striking improvisations and obtusely placed chord movements. The group indulges in the sweet effervescence of the eloquent standard "My One And Only Love" lifting the listener to euphoric heights, and then jumping into the voluminous big band sweeps of "Sitatunga" with exciting saxophone twitters. The lounging riffs of "Joie de Vivere" have a wistful beauty, and the comely atmospherics of "Love Is" have an inviting lukewarm temperature. The group plunges back into rip-roaring horns in the big band track "Thren," before cooling off with the soft dulcet waves of "Adieu Mon Redman."
The Mark Masters Ensemble understands extremes, making their highs super high and their lows baritone deep. The members of Masters ensemble developed their chops in different areas of jazz music’s repertoire, but when they came together for Farewell To Walter Dewey Redman, they were all on the same page, uniting their strengths and acting as a conduit for Redman’s material. It is an album which cherishes the big band sound that Redman brought to audiences.