Class of 2001

COMPOSERS: Jackie McLean,Sharp Nine Class of 2001
LABELS: Sharp Nine
PERFORMER: Sharp Nine Class of 2001 : Jeremy Pelt (t), Julius Tolentino (as), Marcus Strickland (ss, ts), Jeb Patton (p), Brandon Owens (b), EJ Strickland (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 1021-2 (distr. Jazz West, Bristol)

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What the concerned young bopper is doing now – well, almost now, since the recording is already 18 months old. But this sextet of New Yorkers, youngest 21, with old man Tolentino weighing in at 25, sounds like a smart representation of how the next generation (if we can use that awkward, loaded term) is putting its own stamp on the tradition.

This is idiomatic music, with the five originals sitting up straight next to the three compositions from other hands, and one shouldn’t expect any disturbing departure from what we already know about the post-bop language. The playing, though, has such assurance and swagger that it makes a very particular mark, and in the round-robin of solos it’s not difficult to hear how these young men are asserting their own voices.

Pelt, in particular, is an exceptionally forthright and able trumpeter, whose absorption of Booker Little’s music has resulted in a beautifully sonorous delivery: he can play quietly with fine authority, too.

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EJ Strickland plays jazz drums with hip hop licks instinctively sewn in (his twin Marcus is the tenorman), and at least two of the tunes – ‘For Fewer Words’ and ‘Reassurance’ – have claims on memorability. When they end on Jackie McLean’s chops-testing blowout ‘Bird Lives’, and sail through it, you want to go back to the beginning and start again, which is the best test of a record I can think of. Richard Cook