Label/year: HighNote Records, 2017
Lineup - Steve Nelson: vibraphone; Danny Grissett: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.
American vibraphonist Steve Nelson, an influential member in the sound shape of Dave Holland Quintet and Big Band for more than a decade, releases an album under his own name on HighNote Records. Brothers Under the Sun features experienced longtime associates Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums, while pianist Danny Grissett, sitting in for the habitual Mulgrew Miller who passed away in 2013, rounds out the quartet.
In truth, this record is a tribute to the latter, whose style and sound merged beautifully with Nelson’s on several records. Some examples are Miller’s Wingspan and The Sequel, Lewis Nash’s Rhythm Is My Business, Sam Newsome’s Sam I Am, and Nelson’s Communications.
To open the session they pick “The More I See You”, a jewel of the Great American Songbook whose cool swinging flow doesn’t strike us as much as the more appetizing locomotion evinced in “Eastern Joy Dance”, the first of six vibrant tunes by Miller, a dignified, visionary composer.
The following piece, conveniently entitled “Grew’s Tune”, spreads an agreeable Herbie Hancock-ish post-bop scent and sparks with rhythmic accentuations, while “Soul-Leo” boasts a groovy vibrancy mixed with a slightly Latin touch, shifting to swing at the end of the B section before adopting an illustrative blues progression for the improvisations. A totally different mood is set up for “Samba D'Blue” where Brazilian delicacies are served up conjointly by Grissett, Washington, and Nash. In turn, Nelson focuses more on the melody, operating the mallets with dexterity to bring in his luxury phrasing.
Two originals were purposely composed to be part of this record and celebrate Miller’s music and friendship: the title track by the bandleader, and “Melody For Mulgrew” by Grissett, both post bop creations that dwell in the expectancy.
Language and rhythm are synonym of fluency and fluidity, respectively, being keys in Nelson’s music.
Miller, wherever he might be, is certainly thankful for Brothers Under the Sun, which is well-intentioned and aesthetically composed, yet unexceptional.
01 – The More I See You ► 02 – Eastern Joy Dance ► 03 – Grew’s Tune