Ron McClure Sextet: Ron McClure (bass); Rich Perry (tenor saxophone); Tim Hagans (trumpet); Conrad Herwig (trombone); Marc Copland (piano); "Jabali" Billy Hart (drums).
As a vehicle for documenting his original compositions, veteran mainstream jazz bassist McClure envisions his sextet as a double triangle of rhythm section (he, pianist Marc Copland and drummer Billy Hart) and front line (Rich Perry on tenor sax, Tim Hagans on trumpet, Conrad Herwig on trombone) to work as one. With such outstanding musicianship present, and the interesting pieces they have to play with, listeners have a real treat involving themselves with this finely crafted project. There are two standards, the trombone-led ballad "We'll Be Together Again" and Dizzy Gillespie's easy swinger "Con Alma," on which Herwig is up first, Perry grabs the baton on the second and repeated first melody, and the whole group joins at the end. Leader's prerogative dictates that McClure solos frequently; he does on the known numbers, but takes more license on his own. He is dominant for "In Flight" in the intro and up front through the entire, even-tempo horn chart. "Night Bird" has him long-winded in the deliberately paced undertow of hushed melody he adapted from Herbie Hancock's "Speak Like a Child." McClure also modified Joe Henderson's "Gazelle" into "Thunder" with juggernaut trombone and bass; the rest of the horns stay on top of this well-swung melody, which is concluded with the band employing potent interplay. Swinging and especially blowing from Perry is emphasized on the Jazz Messenger-ish "Minor Spree"; a steady rhythm for "More Than a Notion" allows the horns to languish in multiple lines, while freer, darker structures and Hagans' tasteful solo inspires a pounding Hart in mid-flight during "Let Freedom Ring." Another feature for Perry, "April in Nimes," has "April in Paris" references during a wonderful tenor-bass-piano unison line, and "Maya," written for McClure's daughter, goes from waltz to 4/4 bridge time with darker trombone, clarion echoes, and Copland's always colorful piano inserts. McClure has long been underrecognized as a fine bassist, improviser, bandleader and writer. This very fine CD should start to wake the jazz world to his many gifts. Highly recommended. ~ Michael G. Nastos
CMJ (12/20/99, p.28) - "...an interesting geometric conception of jazz, led by a strong performance from Tim Hagan's graceful trumpet and Rich Perry's angular and supple tenor sax."