Posi-Tone Records, 2014. Tom Tallitsch: http://www.tomtallitsch.com/
Tom Tallitsch isn’t part of the local music scene. He lives in New Jersey, plays a lot in New York and Philadelphia. He wasn’t even born in Northeast Ohio, so why are we reviewing his latest CD? Because I discovered that he grew up in Westlake, took lessons from Ernie Krivda, and has lately been playing around town, so we are more than happy to take him on in Buzzard Tracks. Tallitsch went on to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, works as a music educator at all levels, has a music tutoring business in Princeton, and his own radio show in Central NJ. Lots of irons in the fire. This is his fifth release as a leader, his second for Posi-Tone, and his first with this group of musicians.
Nine of the eleven tracks on the album are original compositions, the exceptions being “Life on Mars,” a Bowie tune, and “Ten Years Gone,” from Led Zeppelin. Some rock songs translate well into jazz, others not so much. I really like “Ten Years Gone,” with its piano opening, slow workup to a climax, and big band sound. “Life on Mars,” on the other hand, sounds rather pop-like, the sort of thing more likely covered by a smooth jazz group, and although Tallitsch does a decent job with it, to me it never sounds comfortable. Art Hirahara on piano has some nice work here, and makes the tune sound like “Layla” at the end.
The title track opener is an absolutely delightful hard bop romp and a fine way to start the album. Tallitsch fronts extensively here, which makes sense, to establish the tone of the program, although Hirahara gets some time, and Rudy Royston takes a drum solo. The album could just as easily started off with “Rubbernecker,” although that’s probably not a good name for an album (unless you’re in country music). Again, Tallitsch is strong on his tenor sax soloing, with a fine, rich sound (I can hear Joe Henderson here, as well as Krivda), and the rhythm section is very much in the foreground. In “The Giving Tree” I can really hear the bass work of Peter Brendler coming through the mix along with the rest of the rhythm section, and the ensemble as a whole seems completely present and very tight in this uptempo track. Michael Dease finally gets his chance to solo in “El Luchador,” (reference to a Mexican wrestler) a soulful extended number that, like nearly everything else on the album, has memorable melodies and excellent ensemble playing. “Knuckle Dragger” takes us more into blues territory, with Dease and Tallitsch working beautifully together and trading solos. Tallitsch plays low here, seeming to try to match Dease’s trombone, and it gets pretty intense.
Tallitsch changes things up several times through the album with ballads or other slower tunes. “Rain” is the first, and is a lovely tune, very soulfully played. It’s gospel-like chords are combined with straight ahead balladry, and the melody sticks in the head. “The Myth” takes the tempo a bit faster at times, and Tallitsch takes his tenor sax into the stratosphere occasionally in what I can only describe as a sound story. There’s a lot of excellent work by Hirahara in this one, as well as the rest of the rhythm section. The last track, “Turtle,” seems a mixed bag of tricks, but a successful one with solos by Dease and Tallisch dominating.
This is great music in the hard bop and straight ahead tradition, and it never flags in terms of its melodicism, quality of playing, ensemble togetherness, and variety. A fine release from this quintet.
Personnel: Tom Tallitsch (tenor sax), Michael Dease (trombone), Art Hirahara (piano), Peter Brendler (bass), Rudy Royston (drums).
Tracks: Ride, Life on Mars, Rubbernecker, Rain, The Giving Tree, Ten Years Gone, El Luchador, The Myth, Knuckle Dragger, The Path, Turtle.