With all the "young lions" dominating today's jazz scene, it's always nice to hear something new from a member of the "old guard." It's especially rewarding when it's performed by a stalwart figure like Bud Shank. Although he never, in my opinion, achieved the artistic heights of his fellow "West Coast" altoist Lee Konitz, Shank has always produced fine music of integrity and swing. This recording by his new sextet - nicknamed the "Silver Storm" - is no exception.
Shank's alto has a fine, rounded tone with more than a little bite, often erupting into Cannonball Adderly-style growls and snarls. For all his 50 years as a performer Shank's horn playing is still energetic and aggressive. He lends this edgy sound to a vocabulary of be-bop syntax executed with taste and, for the most part, assurance. I did notice that Shank seems to lose a little footing as the tempos move up.
Joining Shank in the front line are two more veterans: trumpeter Conte Candoli and tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins. Both men are in fine form here. Candoli in particular produces some nice solo work with his bright, brittle tone and easy sense of swing. While Perkins' playing tends toward the relaxed gait of an older musician, Candoli blows with the verve of a much younger man. Lee Morgan comes to mind once or twice.
What really makes this set come together is the solid work of the rhythm section comprised of pianist Bill Mays, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Joe LaBarbera. Although these gentlemen are not quite as silver as the horn section - they are about 20 years younger - their playing is equally as sterling. Magnusson and LaBarbera lock in and keep things light and swinging. Bill Mays deserves special mention for being the standout performer on the record. Mays has a beautiful touch and each of his solos has an architectural clarity that even his fellow band mates seem, on occasion, unable to find.
In terms of the compositions, a mix of Shank originals and standards, there nothing special to mention. No one is reinventing the wheel on these sides, but I'll gladly take some straight-ahead from skilled veterans any day.