Album review: Tony Martucci’s ‘Life in Hand’

July 7, 2011
TONY MARTUCCI
“Life in Hand”

Kindred spirits: John Coltrane, Tony Williams, the Band

Shows: Monday at Blues Alley. Shows start at 8 and 10 p.m. 202-337-4141. www.bluesalley.com. $18.

Like most accomplished jazz drummers, Tony Martucci has played with an array of gifted musicians. So when he gets a chance to lead his own recording session, you can bet he’ll be in excellent company. Martucci’s new album, “Life in Hand,” his fourth as a bandleader, underscores his knack for being in the right place at the right time with the right collaborators.

The album opens with “The Other Shoe,” a brash post-bop theme composed and vigorously animated by the Washington-based drummer, with plenty of help from trumpeter John D’earth, pianist Marc Copland and bassist Tom Baldwin. The same inspired interplay distinguishes the entire album, which is composed of original tunes, save, “I’m Old Fashioned.” The Jerome Kern-Johnny Mercer classic inspires a lovely, fluttering recital, but it’s not as quaint as the tune’s title suggests.

When the focus shifts to Copland’s “Slow Hand” and “The Sun at the Zenith,” the music becomes more harmonically intriguing and rhythmically shaded. Baldwin’s delightful “Writes Left Rides Right” and Martucci’s closing charmer, “Emily’s Star,” a showcase for D’earth’s flugelhorn, add appealing colors and contrasts.

This isn’t a working quintet, but that scarcely matters, since it’s composed of musicians who sound as though they’ve been playing — and thinking — as an ensemble for a long time. The result is a fresh, cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable album.

— Mike Joyce

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