Critic’s Pick: Top 10 List — John Dilberto, Jazziz
Legendary Jazz bassist Reggie Workman leads an all-star ensemble on this Postcards Records album, Reggie Workman: Summit Conference. Joined by two generations of the Jazz avant-garde elite, Sam Rivers and Andrew Hill are musically matched with Julian Priester and Pheeroan akLaff. This evocative recording is an expansive musical exploration to the remote corners of the Jazz universe.
“4 ½ Stars . . . the virtuoso veterans on Summit Conference create highly structured, tightly focused improvisations that
sound ripe, rich, and fully mature…” –– Down Beat Magazine
“4 ½ Stars . . . what a wonderful group! Everybody brought in his originals and showed off his skills . . . everybody’s solo
is outstanding.” — Swing Journal (Japan)
The Philadelphia native came to prominence with John Coltrane and has backed a virtual who’s who of Jazz, such as Art Blakey, Max Roach, & Art Farmer, for the past 30 years. With this impressive album from the Postcards Label, entitled Reggie Workman: Summit Conference (also available on CD), Workman continues to further his legacy, displaying his technical prowess and proving his elite reputation as one of music’s greatest bass players.
2. Estelle’s Theme
Reggie Workman – bass
Andrew Hill – piano
Sam Rivers – tenor & soprano saxophones, flute
Julian Priester – trombone
Pheeroan akLaff – drums
ABOUT REGGIE WORKMAN
Reggie Workman has long been one of the most technically gifted of all bassists, a brilliant player whose versatile style fits into both hard bop and very avant-garde settings. He played piano, tuba, and euphonium early on but settled on bass in the mid-’50s.
After working regularly with Gigi Gryce (1958), Red Garland, and Roy Haynes, he was a member of the John Coltrane Quartet for much of 1961, participating in several important recordings and even appearing with Coltrane and Eric Dolphy on a half-hour West German television show that is currently available on video (The Coltrane Legacy).
After Jimmy Garrison took his place with Coltrane, Workman became a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1962-1964) and was in the groups of Yusef Lateef (1964-65), Herbie Mann, and Thelonious Monk (1967). He recorded frequently in the 1960s (including many Blue Note dates and Archie Shepp’s classic Four for Trane).
Since that time, Workman has been both an educator (serving on the faculty of music schools including the University of Michigan and the New School in New York City) and a working musician, and has played with numerous legendary jazz musicians including Max Roach, Art Farmer, Mal Waldron, David Murray, Sam Rivers, and Andrew Hill (Rivers and Hill joined Workman for the 1993 session, Summit Conference on Postcards Records).
In the 1980s, Workman began leading his own group, the Reggie Workman Ensemble. He also began a collaboration with pianist Marilyn Crispell that lasted into the next decade (the two acclaimed musicians reunited for a festival performance in 2000).
During the ’90s, Workman was not only active with his own ensemble, but also in Trio Three, with Andrew Cyrille and Oliver Lake, and Reggie Workman’s Grooveship and Extravaganza.
In recognition of Reggie Workman’s international performances and recordings spanning over 40 years, he was named a Living Legend by the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum in his hometown of Philadelphia; he is also a recipient of the Eubie Blake Award. ~ Scott Yanow & Joslyn Layne, Rovi
REVIEW AND ALBUM ANALYSIS
5.0 out of 5 stars – Stuart Jefferson Top Contributor: The Beatles – Top 500 Reviewer
One disc, 56 minutes approximately. Digitally remastered-but the sound is still fairly warm, with good spatial qualities between the instruments. Workman has played with a number of well-known jazz musicians over many years. Here he has brought together a like number of jazz musicians with the same outlook and playing temperament as his own. Besides Workman on bass, the group consists of Andrew Hill-piano, Sam Rivers-saxes and flute, Julian Priester-trombone, and Pheeroan akLaff-drums.
The first track gets off to a rousing start, with all the players weaving a fairly dense sound, while both Workman and akLaff hold onto and build a solid bottom on this composition. This tune sets the pace for what’s to come-a combination of freer jazz and straight ahead playing.
The second track slows down a bit, but has the same tonal qualities as the first track. This tune gives Priester a chance to shine on the trombone while the others comp behind him and sometimes with him.
The third track starts out on a “freer” sound and then locks into a somewhat atonal groove with both Workman and Rivers playing notes over the rest of the group. Hill gets a chance to play some interlocking notes that blend in with the composition. This track is played a bit softer and slower than the preceding tunes, and gives the listener a chance to really hear the different players. This tune is just barely into the “free” zone, but is still easy to follow.
The fourth track has a grounding in post-modern bop, as the bass and drums lay down a bottom sound that lets Rivers start to really assert himself on the sax. Priester comes in with some very lovely straight ahead blowing that compliments Rivers and the rhythm section. akLaff gets a chance to show his prowess on the drums for a fairly short solo.
Track five is a delicate sounding tune, with Priester playing some well thought out notes with Hill and Rivers very subtle in the background. It then picks up speed with Rivers playing intensely but not to far outside. Workman comes in with a very intelligent bass solo, with the rest of the group coming in at just the right time for a beautiful finish. This track is probably as close to straight ahead jazz as these players get on this recording.
Track six sounds more in the vein of the first two tracks-a combination of dissonance and some almost straight ahead playing. For those of you who are familiar with Rivers, his playing will come as no surprise. Likewise Priester, whose trombone sound and approach is much like Rivers. Both these players trade and blend their respective sounds over the well placed notes of Hill, and the rhythm section.
Track seven starts very quietly with Workman and akLaff trading sounds. Then both horns come in together and weave a subtle blanket of sound which really calls for the listener to pay attention. The intensity builds up between the group and gives this tune a real identity.
The final track begins with some lovely bowing by Workman, with Hill coming in to play some spare notes. On top of this Rivers plays some gorgeous flute, which accents this piece very well. This is perhaps the quietest piece of the album. No intense note clusters, just some spare notes from the players, who leave a lot of space between in order to emphasize the feeling of calmness. Hill takes center stage here with Rivers, again, playing some delicate flute, with Workman very subtly in the background. akLaff plays his most delicate percussion of the entire album here, and it fits perfectly.
liner notes are short and to the point: Workman gives a short synopsis of the tunes and a bit of information about each. This album (along with CEREBRAL CAVERNS, Workman’s second album for Postcards Records) belongs in every jazz lover’s library. It is fine intelligent music that is not heard too often today, and that’s too bad, for music of this quality should be much wider known and appreciated. —