Paul Dietrich Jazz Ensemble - Forward

Label: Self produced, 2019

Personnel - Paul Dietrich: compositions, arrangements, conduction, trumpet; Tony Barba: tenor saxophone; Dustin Laurenzi: tenor saxophone; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Corbin Andrick: alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute; Mark Hiebert: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Andy Baker: trombone; Jamie Kember: trombone; Kurt Dietrich: trombone; Tom Matta: trombone; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Chuck Parrish: trumpet; Jessica Jensen: trumpet; David Cooper: trumpet; Megan Moran: vocals; Matt Gold: guitar; Carl Kennedy: piano; John Christensen: bass; Clarence Penn: drum set.


Forward is the third official release of the up-and-coming composer, arranger, and trumpeter Paul Dietrich, a native of Wisconsin, who convenes awesome soloists and musicians in order to expand his longtime quintet into a larger jazz ensemble. While featured guest Clarence Penn is practically confined to the accompaniment, Dietrich improvises only once, in the fourth and last movement of his Forward suite, the album’s central piece and an ode to his home state.

The aforementioned movement, “Forward IV: Green Fields”, allows some languid folk to arise on the surface, while the remaining parts, being musically unrelated, explicitly connect through the sentiment. The first part, “Forward I: Perennial”, involves sharp counterpoint and flows with a gorgeous 4/4 beat, featuring improvisations by trumpeter Russ Johnson and tenorist Tony Barba, who deliver again on “Rush”, a poised, gracefully orchestrated piece that is the album’s welcoming embrace. Johnson emanates a beautiful sound from his trumpet in an excellent solo over a circular progression in nine, while Barba starts with thoughtful expressions that are gradually developed and expanded with assured authority.

Forward II: Snow” was written after a significant snowfall, which can be easily pictured as we listen to the music. The inherent tranquility that surrounds this piece gains further dimension with the altoist Greg Ward’s eloquent improvisation. His lyricism is detectable anew on “Settle”, which is included in the set of quiet compositions. This reflective loosening is predominant throughout the album, showing the bandleader’s temperate side.

The angelic vocal presence of Megan Moran enriches several tunes, acquiring a special significance on “Forward III: Roads”, whose rhythmic shifts allude to its topic: travels. Rich layers sculpt forms whose edges are rounder than sharp, but tenor man Dustin Laurenzi, one of the three faces of Twin Talk, inserts a handful of discordant yet alluring notes in his patient narrative elaboration, contributing melodically illuminating lines to the song. Pianist Carl Kennedy and guitarist Matt Gold reveal an effective integration while comping.

Disseminating good vibes through pleasant atmospheric arrangements, Dietrich is a skilled composer who narrates clearly and uniformly in a non-swinging environment.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Rush ► 05 - Forward I: Perennial ► 07 - Forward III: Roads