Although I enjoy a lot of different types of music, I am at heart a traditionalist. That’s one of the reasons why I always look forward to any new album that features experienced and talented jazz pros, doing their thing. When the musicians fulfill that promise, it becomes a very pleasant listening experience.
Case in point — saxophonist Ralph Lalama and his namesake quartet on their latest album, Energy Fields, now out on the Mighty Quinn label. Ralph and the other members of the group, which includes guitarist John Hart, bassist Rick Petrone and drummer Joe Corsello, are all solid veteran performers who have appeared on countless albums.
Lalama himself followed up his early years of playing for Woody Herman and Buddy RIch with service in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and has been much in demand ever since. Guitarist Hart is a star in his own right, with a number of solo albums, and the other two members of the quartet are busy pros too.
On this album, the group offers us a collection of nine tracks of mostly traditional jazz. There is one original by Lalama – “Nonchalant,” a soft and moody piece – but the balance of the album is filled with pop or jazz standards, and the quartet’s arrangements and performances are first-class — well worth the listen.
Among the best are the bluesy and boppish sound of Charlie Parker’s “Buzzy,” and “The Moontrane,” a classic celebration of Coltrane written by Woody Shaw. Lalama confidently moves through these and other tunes with a full-toned sound reminiscent of Sonny Rollins. Hart’s guitar is every bit up to the task of accompanying Lalama and occasionally throwing in a nice solo of his own, especially on the Bird piece.
Not to be overlooked is the group’s presentation of some tasty pop standards, including “Like Someone In Love,” and “Just In Time,” which features a long solo from Lalama that is just jaw-dropping. But probably my favorite here was “Indian Summer,” with its lush mood-setting sound casting a spell.
A strong recommendation for this collection from the Ralph Lalama Quartet.