In follow-up to their ‘radio-friendly’ “Fast Friends”, comes…”FASTER FRIENDS”- Contrasting, powerhouse trombone players on a big-sounding recording with a great rhythm section, once again paying homage to the trombone legends while extending a “whoa” to their playing!
Wayne Coniglio – bass and tenor trombones
Scott Whitfield – trombone
Ken Kehner – piano; Eric Warren – bass; Kevin Gianino – drums
Guests: Jacob Melsha – trombone, voice; Debbie Lennon – voice; Elsie Parker – voice
With a cover paying homage to the 1970’s album “Conversation” featuring Conte Candoli and Frank Rosolino, this recording kicks off before even its first play!
Within the stellar playing and ‘killer’ solos you’ll find included; an homage to Dexter Gordon as well as Slide Hampton…a very austere through-composed piece by one of the best and tastiest pianists in the business…A viral trombone choir on one of the most beautiful songs ever….an homage to the 1960’s Brazilian recordings…standards and originals influenced and dedicated to John Coltrane, James Farnsworth, Steve Grossman & Joe Henderson…a tribute to the great Bobby Hutcherson…and an ‘about face’ on Buster Keaton…
This is an impressively enjoyable effort from first class musicians!! Enjoy!!
Seven years ago I recommended Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield’s first duo project, titled Fast Friends. It’s been a long wait for the follow-up, but it was worth it. Once again the two trombonists are supported by a piano trio, but this time they also feature a few guest vocalists (who provide wordless vocalise on a lively, skipping version of Rodgers & Hart’s “Mimi”). Coniglio offers several great originals, including one based on the changes to “Giant Steps” (“Step Checkitude”) and a lovely boppish tribute to his deceased fellow Ray Charles Band alumnus James Farnsworth. And in the context of “boppish,” it’s important to point out here — again — how difficult it is to play the trombone as nimbly as these guys do at tempo. Ballads with lots of legato phrasing represent the real comfort zone for the ‘bone; notey uptempo charts are notoriously challenging for an instrument that depends so heavily on a slide. Coniglio and Whitfield aren’t show-offs, but the phrase “fast friends” is still impressively apt. Highly recommended.
-Rick Anderson for CD HotList: New Releases for Libraries
Faster Friends, the latest album from longtime friends Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield, is a successful new offering from the duo. That is proven in part through the album’s songs. Yes, most of the record’s 12 total songs are covers, but there are also some originals. The originals and covers alike are enjoyable in their own right. The liner notes that are featured in the album add their own appeal. That is because of the background that they offer on the songs. The record’s production rounds out the album’s most important elements and brings everything together as it brings out the best in each song. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make this record a unique presentation that will find fast appeal among audiences.
Why upset the apple cart on a good thing? These two bone bad boys follow up their “Fast Friends” with a slight variation on more of the same and it works throughout. A throwback to when jazz was jazz and had practitioners that were household names, this is their look back a the 70s and the times on either side of them. Blowing up a grand storm with help from a like minded crew that isn’t afraid to make their mark, any straight ahead jazzbo is sure to find this irresistible–again. Top shelf throughout.
Wayne Coniglio, bass & tenor trombones/composer; Scott Whitfield, trombone; Ken Kehner, piano; Eric Warren, bass; Kevin Gianino, drums; Jacob Melsha, trombone/voice; Debbie Lennon & Elsie Parker, vocals.
All of the musicians in this band are educators and are proud to ‘pay it forward’ in terms of inspiring the next generation and the ones that follow. The ensemble opens with Dexter Gordon’s tune, “Fried Bananas” (based on the chord changes from “It Could Happen to You”). The tempo flies and the trombone solos are stellar, smooth and lovely to hear. Ken Kehner takes a piano solo that is both spirited and creative. Kehner is someone who is just as comfortable playing pop music, classical (Brahms or Prokofiev), as he is improvising and accompanying as a traditional jazz pianist.
Speaking of Ken Kehner, he has composed Track 2, “Swirling.” This arrangement is such a wonderful example of what happens when you put two outstanding trombonists together on a project. Their blend is smooth and silky as baby oil. Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk” composition has long been a favorite of mine. At the introduction, Coniglio and Whitfield have a full, big band sound on this arrangement, even though it’s just those two trombones in the horn section. This album swings hard and offers our ears a pleasant listen, featuring two talented, powerhouse trombonists.
Wayne Coniglio is a product of the music program at Longview School in Phoenix, Arizona. While attending the University of Illinois he was a member of the legendary John Garvey Band. After moving to New York City, he performed with The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, The Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, The Mingus Band and Chico O’Farrill’s Latin Jazz Dream Band. Throughout the 1990’s, Coniglio was invited to tour as part of the Ray Charles band. Ray Charles encouraged him to write arrangements for his band and this spurred Wayne Coniglio into action. Inspired by Ray, his writing and arranging career quickly expanded. He began to write for chamber ensembles, choirs, big bands and pit orchestras. Coniglio became the arranger for the Kevin Kline Awards Show for three consecutive years. Wayne has included three of his original compositions as part of this production. I personally enjoyed “The Determinator,” that was played at an up-tempo pace, in a very straight-ahead arrangement and gives drummer, Kevin Gianino a solo to spotlight his talent.
Like Wayne, Scott Whitfield loves big bands. He’s added his trombone excellence to the bands of Clare Fischer, Bill Holman, Bob Florence, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Johnny Mandel. He has recorded ten albums as a bandleader and appeared on over fifty recordings by other artists. Whitfield has traveled worldwide sharing his expertise on trombone as a clinician. Professor Whitfield served on the jazz faculty at Rutgers University from 1998 to 2002. In 1986 he founded the Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra. One of his mentors was Nat Adderly and he released a 75th birthday tribute to Nat in 2006 featuring his jazz orchestra that rocketed to number five on the radio airplay charts.
Together, Coniglio and Whitfield, along with their powerful rhythm section and special guest Jacob Melsha (also a trombonist), offer us this fine-tuned album appropriately called, “Faster Friends.”
Always overlooked and ignored unless in a big band setting, the trombone gets the limelight on these three recent releases.
We’ve got more sliding here than Rickey Henderson, as Wayne Coniglio plays bass and tenor trombone along with Scott Whitfield’s sliding brass, teamed up with Ken Kehner/p, Eric Warren/b and Kevin Gianino. If that ain’t enough, Jacob Melsa makes it three of a kind on a handful of tracks as the horns bop on “The Determinator” and drive hard on the modal “Recordame”. Melsha even brings in his charming voice to blend in with Debbie Lennon and Elsie Parker for a sensuously swaying samba of “Mimi.” As a two brass team, the gents sometimes meld gloriously for harmonic wonders as on “Swirling”, do some great counterpoint for the waltzing “Little B’s Poem” or swing easy on “Step Checkitude”. There’s a fun time with some muted plunging on the fun “Free and Easy” and melodic wonders in open brass for “You’re My Dream Come True.” Bright and polished brass.
-George Harris for Jazz Weekly
The ’bones are back in town. Faster Friends, product of trombone pros Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield, is the follow-up to 2014’s Fast Friends and ups the ante in cooperation with the excellent pianist Ken Keyner. That’s, following the Hollywood example, nothing short of a logical course of events. After all, Mad Max 2, Aliens 2, Terminator 2 and, last but not least, Emmanuelle 2, all were superior to otherwise excellent prequels.
Faster Friends presents the kind of unbeatable jazz that mainstreamers will admire as a feast of recognition. Hardly innovative and focusing on familiar standards and changes, it seals the bond between two class acts on trombone. While both are influenced largely by modern ’bone giants, Coniglio veers towards the big tart sound of Slide Hampton and Wayne Henderson, while Whitfield’s punchy style reminds of J.J. Johnson and Frank Rosolino – diehard collectors will notice the sleeve design reference to a particular Rosolino record.
Though familiar, the repertoire is surprisingly diverse. Tight bop ensembles mark Dexter Gordon’s Fried Bananas. A sleazy bounce defines the good old swing of warhorse Girl Talk. On a more progressive note, Coniglio and Whitfield sugarcoat Bobby Hutcherson’s Little B’s Poem with a fondant texture and, probed by Kevin Gianino’s polyrhythm, heighten tension with Steve Grossman’s 415 Central Park West. To boot, their sincere interpretation of the obscure Free And Easy, theme song of a Buster Keaton flick, will put the mainstreamers on the edge of their rocking chair.
It’s a good thing that variety is continued with Coniglio’s original compositions, which compensate for the lack of punch that trumpet or tenor sax commonly provide. The ballad You’re My Dream Come True is a fine bass trombone feature for Coniglio, who endearingly refers to Lil’ Darlin’.
Step Checkitude, a neat extension of a line from John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, particularly stands out. Its progression is a perfect foil for Coniglio’s and Whitfield’s thoughtful improvisations, while pianist Ken Keyner performs one of his most impressive and urgent solos, guising as a postmodern Tommy Flanagan. Like the late Flanagan, the all-round Coniglio, Whitfield and Keyner master their area of competence with grace and ease.
-Jazz Journal UK