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Album Review

Philly Joe Jones was Tadd Dameron's roommate for nine years and long thought that the pianist/composer's contributions had been pretty much overlooked. He formed the tribute band Dameronia to make explore the late composer's music, debuting with a small group in the spring of 1982. With the help of trumpeter Don Sickler (who makes a pair of rare appearances on tenor sax as well) as musical director, the band expanded by the time of its first recording a few months later to a nonet. By the time of its second recording the following year, the personnel had changed slightly, now including pianist Walter Davis, Jr., tenor giant Johnny Griffin, tenor saxophonist Charles Davis and alto saxophonist Frank Wess (both of whom double on flute), baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne, trombonist Benny Powell, trumpeter Virgil Jones, and bassist Larry Ridley. Sickler's transcriptions of Dameron's arrangements reveal the depth of his music. "Look, Stop and Listen" is a showcase for the leader, while Griffin shines in the richly textured ballad "If You Could See Me Now," backed by the lush flutes and brass. Wess' flighty alto and Powell's sassy trombone are featured in the rarely performed "Focus." Another gem is the infrequently heard "Dial B for Beauty," spotlighting Davis in a ballad setting instead of the driving hard bop often associated with him. The sole composition not by Dameron is a hard-charging take of "Killer Joe," again showcasing Griffin, who was invited as a guest for two songs initially but encouraged by the musicians to hang around and play on other tracks. Not satisfied with the original mix of the LP due to the dominant presence of the leader's drums (due to the fact that he refused to play in an isolation booth), original session engineer Rudy Van Gelder remixed the album, improving the sound and adding two alternate takes. Highly recommended.

Look, Stop, and Listen, Philly Joe Jones Dameronia
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