In April of 2013, the Verve Jazz Ensemble released their first album It’s About Time (CD Baby, 2012) to rave reviews from critics and jazz lovers everywhere. Exactly one year later, the group follows up on their amazing debut by unveiling East End Sojourn, an exciting second effort featuring new creative arrangements, more reimagined standards, a couple of original statements and the inclusion of guitarist luminary Peter Bernsteinas special guest. The bop and post-bop grooves of the first recording are very much in play here with Jonathan Blanck’s sizzling tenor,Tatum Greenblatt’s soaring trumpet, and a tight rhythm section—all providing a swinging sound and a wish that this short sojourn, had encompassed more time.
Old style swing jazz kicks off the music with a Blanck arrangement of Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” featuring Greenblatt and Blanck exchanging solo salvos and continues on the trumpeter’s arrangement of—and extended solo work on—the classic Fats Waller composition “Jitterbug Waltz,” ably accompanied by pianist Matt Oestreicher. Guitarist Bernstein appears on three consecutive tracks with the first being “You And The Night And The Music,” followed by the Guy Wood standard “My One And Only Love,” the only balladic piece of the set.
Venturing into Latin jazz for the very first time, the group delivers a spirited rendition of Brazilian singer Djavan’s “Flor de Lis” led by the guitarist and drummer Josh Feldstein’s light samba beats making this taste of Brazil quite engaging. Feldstein’s up beat swinging “East End Avenue” is the first of the two originals with the trumpeter’s muted horn-heavy “Dilly Dally Doodle,” serving as the finale but, not before showcasing some of Elias Bailey’s sharp bass line and pianist Steve Einerson’s fine solo work.
The Count Basie staple “Corner Pocket” gets a fresh new treatment from Blanck’s arrangement of the Freddie Green classic featuring light cymbal accents from the drummer, more from Einerson and the horn section. What happens when you merge elements of the Horace Silver standard “Strollin'” with Neil Hefti’s “Cute”? The answer of course? A wonderful sampling of two classics on the appropriately titled “Strollin’ Meets Cute,” highlighting excellent bass phrasings from Chris DeAngelis in support of the two leaders—and arrangers of the hybrid piece—drummer Feldstein and pianist Oestreicher.
Keeping faith with the traditional and contemporary side of jazz, East End Sojourn delivers a fair share of hard-driving swing and bop which, is something the dynamic Verve Jazz Ensemble has become accustomed to doing so well.
– Edward Blanco