The Jazz Quintet CD Review

Jazz Quintet

Conti, gtr;  Mike Wofford, p;  John B.Williams, b; Herman Riley,  sa, as, ts, fl;Jim Plank, perc.

Rotation, The Agony of Ecstacy; Hollywood and Sunset; In Memory of; The Street Life of South Philadelphia; The World Today; String Fever.

Jan 08, 1988  Robert Conti  isn’t well-known since he spends most of his time in a small beach community near Jacksonville Florida, but he’s a whiz of a bebop guitarist and

– as this collection of his tunes illustrates – an imaginative composer as well.  A player of great virtuosity, his improvisations are characteristically constructed from highly melodic but hard swinging phrases so seamlessly connected they would leave a hornman gasping for air.  In fact they sometime leave the listener needing a breather too, and the application of some Count Basie’s or Miles lessons on the merits of empty space might not be a bad idea.  Conti’s tunes range all the way from prototypical bebop flagwavers to a slow, rubato, almost impressionistic solo piano piece, and include a Strayhorn-like ballad rendered Hodges-style by saxophonist Riley, a quiet flute feature, and a medium-tempo strut. The writing is fresh-sounding and attractive .

Conti’s colleagues are excellent.  The attentive rhythm section keeps a buoyant beat and soloists contribute first-rate improvisations.  It’s too bad pianist Wofford has only two solos, since those-a chorus on the changes of Cherokee (Rotation) and an unaccompanied rendition of In Memory Of- are extraordinarily well-developed and cliché-free. Riley offers some fine bop-flet and Bird–like on also, soulful and Turrentine-like on tenor–although he doesn’t sound altogether comfortable with the blazing tempo of the bridge to Rotation.

Despite a bit of ensemble sloppiness (a few missed entrance and pitch discrepancies, for example), the overall quality of the music is high and Robert Conti’s debut record is one fans of straight-ahead, mainstream modern jazz should enjoy.

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