“…the creative piano man makes this date notable if for nothing else than it’s believed to be Lew Soloff’s last session recorded 2 weeks before he died. Just in passing, it’s notable for the playing and writing as well. A smart, left leaning date peopled with players that are all game raisers, this is solid late Friday afternoon music when you need something that understands how much you need to let go with your jazz at that moment. Some of the titles might seem pretty down beat but this is instrumental music and the groove reigns supreme.”
Bruce Torff brings together great musicians out of New York to play his original material. This new recording includes Lew Soloff (Blood, Sweat & Tears) on his final recorded appearance; he passed away just two weeks after the recording was finished.
Bruce Torff: keyboards
Joel Frahm: saxophone
Pete McCann: guitars
Ben Wittman: drums
Lew Soloff: trumpet
Enceladus • Down the Line • Wave of Silence • Tribal Function • This I Promise You • Well of Tears • Beginning to End • The Road to Hell • The News • Once and For All • Early Sunday
REVIEW FROM ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM
Chicago area native, Bruce Torff, leads his second outing on Summit Records, following up on Look Again (2013). Torff is, first and foremost, an academician with three Master Degrees and a PhD from Harvard. He is a professor at Hofstra University and a prolific author, as well an excellent keyboardist and composer. Torff’s slim recorded musical history dates back to composing credits on his brother, bassist Brian Torff’s Hitchhiker of Karoo (Self-Produced, 1985). He later recorded as part of guitarist John Stein‘s quartet on Hustle Up! (Knitting Factory, 1995). The common thread in Torff’s previous work had been straight-ahead, mainstream jazz but on Down the Line he conveys a distinctive fusion component to the music.
Saxophonist Joel Frahm and guitarist Pete McCann return from Torff’s original group. Frahm’s more notable recordings include his duo outing with Brad Mehldau, Don’t Explain(Palmetto Records, 2000), and Jane Monheit‘s In the Sun (Silverline, 2005) along with a half-dozen leader releases. McCann has lead his own groups since the late 1990s and is known for his diverse range that covers sub-genres from jazz-rock to avant-garde. Drummer Ben Wittman has been part of more than one-hundred recordings as a multi-instrumentalist, producer or engineer working with a range of artists from folk artist Lucy Kaplansky to Sting to the Either/Orchestra.
Of special note, Down the Line represents what is believed to be Lew Soloff‘s final recording before his death in March 2015, two weeks after completing this album. The legendary trumpeter’s resume includes Frank Sinatra, the Mingus Big Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. On Torff’s album he appears on only two tracks, “This I Promise You” and the closing track, the poignant “Early Sunday,” Soloff playing lower here than his characteristic style.
The eleven original Torff compositions are democratically arranged to allow for Torff, Frahm and McCann to take brief solos though Down the Line is more an ensemble effort. The stylistic variations include funk oriented pieces such as the title track, “Tribal Function” and “Well of Tears” and the furtive and more improvisational “Last Dispatch from the Road to Hell.” Brazilian undercurrents play a role on “This I Promise You,” “Beginning to End,” “Memoriam” and “Once and for All.”
While Torff’s strength may not be trailblazing improvisation and Down the Line isn’t dominated by break-out solos, he nevertheless has a unique harmonic view and the ability to bring lyrical and angular qualities together seamlessly. Torff’s melodies are swayed by a contemporary and forward-looking perspective that keeps the album from falling into the increasingly large black hole of fusion/smooth jazz. Down the Line is an enthusiastic and tasteful album that should be broadly appealing.
“Pianist/composer Bruce Torff has an unusual talent: the ability to write distinctly modern jazz that makes no compromises in terms of harmonic and melodic complexity, but that is at all times completely accessible. This is not a minor thing. Listen to the title track of his second album as a leader, and notice how strange the melody is and yet how easy it is to listen to, and contemplate how rare it is for a jazz guy to accomplish that. The whole album works that way, which is very impressive. It’s also worth noting that this album includes the last recordings by the great trumpeter Lew Soloff, who died only days after the sessions were finished. Recommended to all jazz collections.”
“This album by pianist and composer Bruce Torff touches upon the loss of friends and associates and while it has moments of appropriate solemnity it is far from being sad and gloomy. All the music heard here is composed by Bruce, the moving Memoriam being written following the death of a friend from childhood and seeks and finds joy in these memories. Yes, there are moments of reflection, such as Wave Of Silence, but there is also liveliness and wit, Down The Line, Tribal Function, and (despite its title) Well Of Tears. For this album, Bruce is joined by guitarist Pete McCann, drummer Ben Wittman, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm (playing soprano saxophone on one track). Also present on this session is trumpeter Lew Soloff who plays on two tracks, This I Promise You and Early Sunday, both fine examples of his work, exploring as they do depths of mature and sincere emotion. That emotional content is enhanced immeasurably by the knowledge that just two weeks after his appearance was recorded Lew Soloff died. Attractive music in the contemporary mainstream of jazz.”