Old Thoughts for a New Day is the most recent release by the San Francisco Bay Area based Ben Adams quintet. The recording consists of nine original tunes penned by leader and vibraphonist Ben Adams. The music is a straight ahead set of similarly mellow yet swinging compositions. The tune titles seem to represent a consistent musical theme throughout the recording of a somewhat serene, intimate and reflective mood--sort of a Modern Jazz Quartet meets Sonny Rollins Plus 4 meets Horace Silver Quintet. At the center of the quintet's sound is Ben Adams' vibraphone. His style is reflective of other previous great players including Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Adams' teacher at the Berklee School of Music, Gary Burton. Variety on the recording is achieved by featuring various members of the quintet as soloists. Without the presence of a piano in the ensemble, Adams’ vibraphone serves not only in a soloistic role but also as a constant harmonic backdrop.
"Avery’s Bedtime Song" certainly sets the pace for Old Thoughts for a New Day. This mellow opener features the trumpeter/flugelhornist Erik Jekabson as first soloist followed by an improvisation by Adams. The more upbeat "Conversation With Martin" again features Adams following a throaty tenor solo by Mitch Marcus. Bassist Fred Randolph and drummer Sameer Gupta maintain good time underpinning the solos, and Randolph also contributes a solo right before the return to the tune’s head. We hear the group stretch their straight ahead boundaries just a bit during Adams' solo on "Patron Saint of Lost Causes." Likewise Jekabson (on flugelhorn) takes some of his improvisational approaches "outside" with some interesting roughening and buzzing in his sound. The most "outside" improvised solo on this tune is provided by saxophonist Mitch Marcus, who clearly sounds as though he is juxtaposing his melodic creations against rather then within the established chord changes of the tune.
On the tune "The Actual" after a solo by Adams, saxophonist Marcus again begins his improvisation with some "outside" techniques making his tenor sound like a low moan. Once he begins to let the notes fly, bassist Randolph and drummer Gupta seemingly make time stand still with repetitive pedal points and rhythms. The group shifts back to a more straight ahead vein with the entrance of Jekabson's trumpet solo. "Sheltered Circle" is another upbeat tune that begins with a drum solo by Sameer Gupta leading into an up tempo bop inspired head played by trumpet and tenor. The title cut "Old Thoughts for a New Day" returns the quintet to the slower paced mellow mood that opened the recording. "Pocket Fiction" and "Ghost at Infancy" are both whimsical more upbeat sounding compositions, while the CD's final cut "Sea of Cortez" brings the set to a close again with the mellow and reflective mood with which it began.
The musicianship on Old Thoughts for a New Day is superb and the sound quality, balance and mix on the recording are excellent. Ben Adams and his sidemen are very capable and competent musicians and their product here is quite good. Old Thoughts for a New Day would be a welcome addition to anyone's jazz CD collection.