The New York Comes to Groningen Art Ensemble: A Beautiful Friendship
A Beautiful Friendship: New York Comes to Groningen, Volume 2
Prince Claus Conservatory
In addition to his active schedule performing in a wide range of jazz contexts on both sides of the Atlantic, bassist Joris Teepe has been director of Jazz Studies for more than a decade at the Prince Claus Conservatoire in the Dutch city of Groningen. In fact, it was Teepe's brainstorm that spawned the conservatory's unique, signature jazz program, dubbed "New York Comes to Groningen." This brings in rotating visiting faculty members made up of some of the most seasoned jazz professionals based in New York City. This CD brings that top-notch faculty together, performing under the name of The New York Comes to Groningen Art Ensemble, under Teepe's highly capable leadership.
Teepe contributes half of the arrangements here, three of which are his own compositions. Original compositions predominate on the CD overall, with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and vocalist JD Walter also making contributions. The opener is an exception, Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," served up in a lively, swinging arrangement by saxophonist Don Braden. The chart folds in a bit of the melody from Sonny Rollins' "Alfie's Theme," and the tune features fine solo work by Braden, Sipiagin, Teepe and pianist David Berkman.
Of Teepe's originals, "Organized Crime" stands out as edgy, spare and haunting, bringing to mind the bassist's long association with drummer Rashied Ali, despite the fact that there's no percussion on this track. The inventive solo work here by pianist Berkman and his interplay with Teepe is especially notable. "Little Felix," Teepe's infectious, Brazilian-flavored tune, features Freddie Bryant taking on a prominent voice with his nylon-stringed classical guitar. The piece also showcases some outstanding ensemble writing for the horns and a beautiful trumpet solo by Spingarn. Teepe's ballad, "Small Fire, Big Flames," includes fine solos by the bassist and pianist against a tasteful background of sax and trumpet.
"A Beautiful Friendship" is Donald Kahn's standard arranged by Teepe, and starts off by channeling Thelonious Monk's halting classic "Evidence" before moving to a medium-tempo swing. It features noteworthy solos by Braden, Teepe and Berkman, and a rousing interchange between the saxophonist and pianist trading fours with drummer Gene Jackson.
In addition to vocals on the opening track and on his own two arrangements, J.D. Walter appears on Sipiagin's original, "Little Dancer," not in a traditional lead singer's role, but serving as another member of the ensemble, singing wordless lines that complement the instrumentalists. "Hoping You'll Be There," Walter's original composition and arrangement, features Teepe on electric bass, an especially notable solo by trombonist Robin Eubanks, and a concluding choir effect through multi-tracked vocals. Bryant's classical guitar returns for the closer, the Jimmy van Heusen chestnut "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." Bryant and Teepe provide the only instrumental accompaniment here for Walter, whose arrangement of the tune keeps the original lyrics but provides an alternate melody and includes a spirited scat chorus.
Since the CD's original release, Teepe has modified his bi- coastal existence. Instead of making his primary residence in the New York area and jetting back and forth to his original Dutch homeland and elsewhere in Europe throughout the year, he's been based in The Netherlands and making occasional trips to the U.S. Either way, it's clear he'll keep bringing the great jazz heard on this CD from New York to Groningen and vice versa.
Tracks: Higher Ground; Organized Crime; Little Felix; Hoping You'll Be There; Small Fire, Big Flames; A Beautiful Friendship; Little Dancer; Polka Dots & Moonbeams.
Personnel: Joris Teepe: double bass, electric bass; J.D. Walter: vocals (1, 4, 7, 8); Don Braden: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Freddie Bryant: guitar; David Berkman: piano; Gene Jackson: drums (6); Ralph Peterson: drums (1, 3-5, 7).