|The particular group of gents has matured somewhat together. In other words, these long time friends have crossed paths musically for over twenty-five years. Though Gary Bartz, John Hicks, and Mickey Bass are all former Jazz Messengers, ironically they never played together as members of that legendary band. When Charles Tolliver, Mickey Bass and Billy Hart attended Howard University simultaneously, they played both together and separately as their friendship grew. Similarly, Gary Bartz and Grachen Moncur III attended the Julliard School of Music in the same years where they performed with each other on occasion. During one of their formative years living in Brooklyn, Grachen, Charles, and Mickey played a steady gig on Monday nights with a different drummer and saxophonist. At the time it was difficult for younger artist to lead gigs because of the predominance of the older statesmen of jazz. However, work with older and wiser musicians gave junior jazz players the experience that helped them develop their own sound.
Even before this trio migrated to the Mecca of jazz - New York City - they honed their skills at the North End Lounge - a club in Baltimore owned by Gary Bartz's father. The four men played together every weekend.
Meanwhile, John Hicks had been living in New York and making ample use of the education he had acquired at Boston's Berkley School of Music. His future wife, Olympia, had been attending Howard along with Charles Tolliver, Mickey Bass and Billy Hart. Olympia found the time to play chord voicing on the piano for Tolliver and Bass during school practice sessions. John had taught her the entire hip voicing, enabling her to comp for even hipper musicians developing their solos.
After a time, all these aspiring musicians came together in New York City and worked with one another on and off. Their heroes, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, and Bud Powell inspired them. The inspired young journeymen, learned from the legacy of the past, present and future of jazz.
Each of these talented troubadours is a composer, arranger and bandleader in his own right. The result of their collaboration is a marriage of some things old, new, borrowed and blue. This effort by the Reunion Legacy Band affirms the skill and artistic maturity that the members have gathered through the years.
Mickey Bass' arrangement of "Getting Sentimental Over You" allows each player to shine in his own light on an old standard. "Do A Funny Dance", a composition by Gary Bartz, lends a unique calypso feeling to the session. The song conjures up memories of Sonny Rollins and his great composition entitled "St Thomas". The musicians honor some of the island influences to which American jazz owes a tremendous debt.
The composition "A For Pops" is a dedication to one of the leading citizens of the jazz community - the one and only Louis Armstrong. Written and arranged by Grachen Moncur III, the song is a musical timepiece that will influence jazz for generations to come.
Aside from being a superb pianist, John Hicks is also a prolific composer. He has created "Avotcja" with a remarkably unusual form: sixteen bars of hard swing are followed by eleven bars of three-four times only to return to eight more bars of swing. The work is completely different in approach and puts the musicians to a rigorous and rapid test.
Next comes the fluid lyrical composition of Charles Tolliver entitled "Franess". It too, is a combination of unusual methods: straight ahead swing breaks up into an Afro-Caribbean movement, which, with a syncopated release, returns to the original motive. This is a boldly constructed piece, which are all too rare these days.
"The Juggler" is a challenging composition by Mickey Bass. Based in part on a cycle of fifths in minor thirds. "The Juggler" is reminiscent of early Coltrane like "Giant Step". The use of fourths in minor thirds, increase both the difficulty and reward of playing the piece.
Last is another composition by Mickey Bass entitled "Brother Rick" and dedicated to the artist's late younger brother. The song is based on a mode concept employed with somewhat uplifting hard-driving force that inspires the band members to burn as best they can. Charles Tolliver's final solo work in the piece seems to strike a match, which ignites the band to a fiery musical fever pitch.
This musical adventure is a long-awaited testimony to the power and beauty of the past, present and future of jazz. The world needs more work of the caliber, which this group of premier musicians has created. Their youth and raw talent were nurtured in the shadows of legends. Now is the time for the Reunion Legacy Band to be heard.