Point Of Grace is the sophomore release from the Washington D.C.-based Pete BarenBregge - Frank Russo Group. Well conceived and (for the most part) well executed, this modern jazz album makes for a very enjoyable listen. It features Pete BarenBregge on saxophones, Frank Russo on drums, Fred Hughes on piano, Rob Levit on guitar, Max Murray and Aaron Clay (tracks 2 & 10) on bass and Chris Rose on percussion.
The album of ten tracks includes four covers and six originals. Of the covers, three are jazz standards ("My Shining Hour", "Speak Low" and "You Don’t Know What Love Is") and the fourth is a surprisingly effective jazz treatment of Joni Mitchell’s "Woodstock". The six originals were written, three each, by Levit and Hughes. They are both very talented composers and have contributed tunes that are catchy and stylish.
While the group’s hard bop roots are quite apparent, several of the tunes would feel equally at home on both ‘smooth’ jazz and ‘straight-ahead’ jazz radio, which I think is a plus. The ability to ‘straddle the line’ between contemporary and classic jazz is admirable, and often serves to help open the minds of the less informed jazz fan.
Overall, they play very well together as a group. However, they did stumble a bit on the Hughes original "The Rainman". It’s a wonderful composition, but the group never really seems to find each other on this tune. Individually they play splendidly, but this tune sounds slightly less cohesive than the other tunes on the album, as though they never really found the ‘pocket’. But they make up for it many times over on songs like "My Shining Hour". This tune is the epitome of synchronicity; a complex arrangement full of tempo modulations and razor-sharp breaks. They also shine especially bright on "Woodstock", in which Levit adds effects to his guitar for a crunchy, rock-ish sound that works amazingly well in this context.
With its great tunes, creative arrangements and top-notch musicianship, this is a recording well worth your time and attention.