|Back in the day, Seattle jazz fans could make the Jackson Street scene to catch, for instance, Ray Charles teaching the ropes to a young Quincy Jones. That was my father's era, and his stories of nights at the Black & Tan and other legendary clubs have inspired many twinges of jealousy in me over the years. Happily, Seattle continues to be (or has become again) the site of a lively jazz scene, and the proof is on discs like this debut effort from the Jim Cutler Quartet.
Saxophonist Cutler is a regular on the Seattle club circuit, not only leading the quartet but playing with the big bands Roadside Attraction and The Jazz Police, among other groups. JCQ is his first recorded outing as a leader, and if it gets the kind of attention it deserves, he may have little time left for other pursuits, though. Joined by pianist Brian Olendorf, bassist Philip Demaree and drummer Chris Monroe, the album offers seven originals by Cutler, one by Demaree and four thoughtful covers. It's a solid straight-ahead effort, generally, seasoned with some Latin, fusion and bop undertones.
As a leader, Cutler is generous with solo space for his compatriots, and they all rise to the occasion capably, with Demaree being a notable standout in that regard. Playing standup for the most part, Demaree also shows an adept touch on the fretless electric instrument on Cutler's "Keep Off The Grass," emphasizing the tunes fusion edges without overwhelming its solid jazz underpinnings.
Demaree's composition, "Waiting," is also noteworthy, as Cutler sets his tenor aside in favor of soprano. If the though of a soprano saxophone ballad makes you cringe a bit, you've been listening to the wrong sax players. In this case, the instrument captures the romance of the tune without becoming cloying, and is set off well by Demaree's own superb solo turn.
Among the covers, I'm especially taken by the quartet's version of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring," but, in fact, there's not a single track that doesn't hold my interest and earn my appreciation. This is exactly the kind of album I'd put on to demonstrate what good, straight ahead jazz can and should be. To top it all off, these guys gig right here in my own home town. My dad would be jealous.