Julian Priester is an artist that, as the cliche goes, should need no introduction. But should
is probably the key word here. Though he's well regarded by those who know and boasts a C.V that could be mistaken for a short list of the most well-loved and influential groups in jazz history (the orchestras of both Sun Ra and Duke Ellington, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Clifford Brown/Max Roach group, Herbie Hancock's short-lived but important Mwandishi Sextet, augmenting the John Coltrane Quartet on the Africa Brass
sessions...and that's not even mentioning his work with blues/rock pioneers like Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley & Ray Charles), trombonist Julian Priester is probably not the household name he should
be. His newest release as a leader is In Deep End Dance
, an accessible but challenging suite of songs based, in the artist's words, "the concept of oneness....with titles standing for areas of environmental concern." Priester wrote five of the albums eight pieces, with each of his three young colleagues contributing one song apiece.
The great success of Priester and co. with this album is in establishing and maintaining a mood simmering with contemplation and mystery throughout its course despite a fair amount of stylistic diversity between the individual pieces. The opening "In Deep" starts of with a relatively simple post-bop theme (which returns again for the closing "End Dance") before segueing into the impressive free improvisation "Captured Imaginations." "Blues Sea" features a theme that would do Monk proud, while pianist Dawn Clement's "A Delicate Balance" wouldn't have sounded out of place on Keith Jarrett's Mysteries.
The overall effect of the record is reminiscent of Wayne Shorter: quiet, but intense.
All four of the musicians acquit themselves well. Priester, the album's predominant solo voice, once again demonstrates his absolute mastery of the trombone and asserts his place at the very forefront of the instrument alongside the likes of Steve Turre, Roswell Rudd & Grachan Moncour III. The rhythm team of Ms. Clement, bassist Geoff Harper and drummer Byron Vannoy yeomanly manage the complex task of keeping up with the abundant and sometimes dime-turning tempo and time changes required by this complex music, and each steps up when called upon--Clement's playing shining throughout, including some nifty blues figures on Harper's "Thin Stream of Dark Blue Light;" Vannoy supercharging his own "Mejatoto" with the able assistance of Harper.
If you are familiar with the playing of Julian Priester, you already understand that the release of In Deep End Dance
is an event. If you aren't and don't, you can't say I didn't warn you. Bottom line, if you miss this CD, you do so at your own risk.