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Tobias Gebb & Unit 7: free at last (2009)

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Tobias Gebb & Unit 7: free at last New York-based drummer Tobias Gebb assembled a stellar cast for free at last. The format of Unit 7 follows the instrumentation tradition of Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
's Jazz Messengers. The three-horn frontline and three-man rhythm section allows this group to sound bigger than it is at times, while also having the flexibility to make things more intimate. Gebb covers plenty of stylistic ground over the course of these eight songs and he wastes no time getting started.

"Blues for Drazen" begins with a fiery drum introduction that leads into an up-tempo swing feel. Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
b.1953
sax, alto
, tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard
Stacy Dillard
Stacy Dillard

saxophone
and pianist Eldad Zvulun all get some space to stretch out as Gebb unleashes a furious solo with machine gun-like runs. "My Love" is a Brazilian-tinged Gebb composition that shows great contrast between the three soloists. Trumpeter Joe Magnarelli
Joe Magnarelli
Joe Magnarelli
b.1960
trumpet
plays things pretty straight and has a drier sound than usual, while tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm
Joel Frahm
Joel Frahm

sax, tenor
is warmer and more soulful and Zvulun comes across as being more contemplative and measured.



Gebb's "Spitball" is a close relative of soulful, funky, feel-good tunes like "The Sidewinder," that brought trumpeter Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
great fame during his Blue Note heyday. Altoist Mark Gross and Frahm both get some room to solo, but it's Magnarelli that steals the show with his fluid and energetic performance. Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
and Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
both provide some inspiration for Gebb's unique arrangement of "You Don't Know What Love Is"; whether playing castanets behind a brooding saxophone solo or swinging behind the band, Gebb always provides the right support and feel. The high point of this performance comes when Watson and Dillard turn up the heat as they solo over and around one another.

While a title like "Bop Be Dop" might suggest a Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
-style workout, the music couldn't be further from that realm; instead, it's a calypso in the spirit of Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
, featuring tenor saxophonist Ron Blake
Ron Blake
Ron Blake
b.1965
saxophone
. "Free At Last," with a title referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and paying tribute to American President Obama, is a slow-building, harmonious chorale that reaches a soul-stirring conclusion. The finest example of Gebb's flexibility and Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
-like sensibility is on "Softly as in a Morning Contemplation." Gebb melds "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" with pianist McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
's "Contemplation," and the result is nothing short of spectacular. The song doesn't succeed because of what's played, but rather for what is left out. A hip, loose feel is present throughout the song, with bassist Neal Miner
Neal Miner
Neal Miner
b.1970
bass, acoustic
anchoring the group and the saxophones so cool that they seem to ooze from the players' pores. Sitarist Neel Murgai
Neel Murgai

sitar
joins the band for "Tomorrow Never Knows." Frahm and Gross have fun emulating and meshing with Murgai as they put their own stamp on this last song.


Track Listing: Blues for Drazen; My Love; Spitball; You Don't Know What Love Is; Bop Be Dop; Free At Last; Softly as in a Morning Contemplation; Tomorrow Never Knows.

Personnel: Tobias Gebb: drums; Bobby Watson: alto saxophone (1, 4, 7); Joe Magnarelli: trumpet (2, 3, 6); Ron Blake: tenor saxophone (5); Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 6, 8); Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone (1, 4, 5, 7); Mark Gross: alto saxophone (2, 3, 6, 8); Ugonna Okegwo: acoustic bass (2, 3, 6, 8); Neal Miner: acoustic bass (1, 4, 5, 7); Neel Murgai: sitar (8); Eldad Zvulun: piano.

Record Label: Yummyhouse Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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