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Album Review

For his debut, trombonist Eric Felten draws on impressive co-stars from opposite ends of the age spectrum. As a second trombone, he enlists veteran Jimmy Knepper, whose experience dates back to the swing era logging time with Mingus, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Benny Goodman, and Gil Evans. On tenor saxophone, Felten brings in then-fellow Harvard man Joshua Redman, who was a year away from recording his own debut session for Warner Bros. (This session also predates Redman's appearance on Mario Pavone's Toulon Days.) And the rest of the cast, all denizens of the Boston scene at the time, proves up to the task of supporting these luminaries. Felten, as usual for a novice, uses his first outing to work out his influences. Felten is a solid, bop-based trombonist, who colors his work with a few swing-by-way-of-free devices. Mostly his work falls in the J.J. Johnson camp, though on "Delphi" it sounds like a bit of Knepper's style is rubbing off. His two duets with bassist Paul Henry serve as excellent introductions to his work. For his part, Redman sounds like the highly accomplished post-Coltrane tenor player that he is. The Coltrane influence radiates throughout his intense solo on "Deconstruction." In contrast to the leader and Redman, Knepper has one of the most distinctive voices in the business. The melodies bubble from his horn, twisting unexpectedly and bouncing off at odd angles, stopping every now and then to savor a particularly piquant upper-register note. His solos are diamonds in a box of costume jewelry.

T-bop, Eric Felten
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