There have always been bands of superstar jazz musicians. Usually put together by a producer, witness the Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, Deron Johnson & Najee Live At The Greek tour, or a record company, witness the 1970s CTI label-mate concerts, but a band of superstars who come together on a regular basis is almost unheard of. That has all changed with the SF Jazz Collective.
Originally put together by producer Randall Kline and saxophonist Joshua Redman in 2004, the concept of a regularly meeting ensemble of top-rank musicians that would put together original arrangements honoring a selected jazz musician's compositions, Wayne Shorter in 2008 and Herbie Hancock in 2006 are just two examples, as well as selected new compositions, was almost unheard of. With six yearly albums already released, the new 2010 issue is a rollicking three disc affair.
Made up of saxophonists Miguel Zenon (alto) and Mark Turner (tenor), trumpeter Avishai Cohen, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Stefon Harris' vibraphone, pianist Edward Simon, Matt Penman on bass and Eric Harland on drums, these former young guns have all risen to the level of leader status in their own right. Arranging schedules so the eight musicians could gather together at the same time for rehearsals and a live tour, from which a recording would be put together, must have taken the Midas touch. Thankfully it worked, and we the listening public are the richer for it.
In 2010 it was the music of Horace Silver that was honored. The recording includes eight Silver tunes and eight original compositions by band members all inspired by Silver's work.
First and foremost, this is an incredible recording. All of the musicians are certified monsters who have checked their egos at the door in order to create a true ensemble and make each other sound good. There are no highlights, as every single track on every single CD is incredible; when was the last time you read that in a CD review?
Opening with Harris' rhythmically trippy arrangement of Silver's "Cape Verdean Blues," which features a fantastically muscular solo from Cohen, a harmonically sly solo from Harris, and a rhythmically diverse solo from Harland, and ending with Cohen's hip interpretation of Silver's "Baghdad Blues," this band is at the top of their form on every cut.
The arrangements of Silvers' tunes all find new ground to cultivate, and placing the compositions in new lights allows for an even greater ensemble conception and member interplay. Being just short of a nonet, not to mention the wonderful diversity of instrumentation, each of the compositions/arrangements are a breath of fresh cool air. There is no way a true jazz lover should not own these discs, and since it's a limited edition set, get it now.