Just Passing Through – The Birmingham Seven
An accessible horn sound, The Birmingham Seven (B7) is a straight-ahead jazz septet patterned after the small groups of the hard-bop era. The members of B7 are veteran performers who have worked together in various local, regional and national ensembles for 25+ years. Equally at home on club, festival, auditorium, and/or concert hall stages, the B7 has performed for wide, diverse audiences.
Rob Alley – Trumpet
Jon Noffsinger – Alto Saxophone
Gary Wheat – Tenor Saxophone
Daniel Western – Baritone Saxophone
Tom Wolfe – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Chris Kozak – Double & Electric Basses
Michael Glaser – Drum Set
The members of the Birmingham Seven are veteran performers who have worked together in various local, regional, and national ensembles for over 25 years. They began performing together as the Birmingham Seven in 2006 and started recording together in 2012. Not only are they professional colleagues but they are also good friends. This creates a unique familial rapport in their music.
Vintage sounding hard bop is delivered by the septet of Rob Alley/tp, Jon Noffsinger/as, Gary Wheat/ts, Daniel Western/bs, Tom Wolfe/g, Chris Kozak/b and Michael Glaser/dr on this collection of muscular originals. Western’s baritone sax is a mellifluous force of nature, bopping with abandon as the team digs in on “Guard Donkeys” while gentle on my mind on the easy “Read The Room”. Kozak plugs in and gets funky on the boogalooing “Green Lights For No On” and Glaser gets the congregation on its feet for the gospel’d “Gotta Keep “em Guessin’”. The modal “Ava’s Dance” sways to Noffsinger’s sweet alto and Wolfe is California cool on “Diggin’ The Dapples”. Timeless tones.
The Birmingham Seven ensemble immediately reminds me of the bebop era with their straight-ahead dynamics and swinging arrangements. This is the group’s premier recording, although they have been working together off and on, for over twenty-five years. They formed this Birmingham Seven ensemble in 2006 and they are not only fine musicians, but they are fine friends too. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, they offer eleven original compositions by various horn members in the group and every tune sounds like a jazz standard. Daniel Western has composed most of the songs, and his baritone saxophone is beautiful to my ears. If you are a lover of music by Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington’s orchestra, these beautiful melodies, rooted in ‘swing’ and featuring dance tune arrangements is the perfect album for you.
If you’re looking for some old-fashioned, straight-ahead jazz in styles ranging from hard bop to powerfully swinging big-band sounds to Latin to Monk-inflected modernism, then look no further than the debut release of the Birmingham Seven. Just Passing Through presents a full program of originals, most of them written by baritone saxophonist Daniel Western. While the styles vary widely within the general parameters of straight-ahead jazz, two things are consistent: the band’s clear respect and affection for the styles in which they play, and a powerful sense of joy in virtuosity — but at the same time, no one is showing off here; they’re serving the tunes and conveying ideas that are as fun to listen to as they are complex and challenging. Highlights include the album-opening “Gotta Keep ‘Em Guessing” and the brilliant horn chart on “Reed the Room.” I’m very much looking forward to this group’s next album.