CD Review: L.A.6: Frame of Mind
Comprised of musicians based in Los Angeles, California, the L.A. 6 are a group of seasoned professionals who came together fifteen years ago with one common bond, a history and affinity for West Coast Jazz and Frame Of Mind is their homage to the contemporary straight ahead style made so popular in the '50s and early '60s. Though the group borrows music from such icons as Sonny Stitt and Oliver Nelson among others, the album reflects a modern version of the tradition with a blend of standards and originals from members of the band. Originating from the music played at the Wenatchee Jazz Workshops in Washington State, the group has evolved stabilizing in 2009 as a modern sextet performing regularly at the five-day workshops today.
The eleven-tune repertoire of the album comes directly from the band's performances at the workshops following the recommendations from tenor saxophonist Tom Peterson to document their work. The result of course, is an outstanding compliment to the lighter bebop and cool jazz sound of West Coast Jazz. There are truly no fillers on this disc, all of the tracks are keepers marked by creative arrangements and sizzling solos. The horn section of trumpeter Clay Jenkins, trombonist Ira Nepus and saxophonist Peterson, open the music on the upbeat lively Stitt composition "The Eternal Triangle" followed by pianist Rich Eames own original "Sight Seen At Twilight" featuring sturdy work from bassist Jeff D'Angelo with Eames and Peterson in accompaniment.
The time-honored Mark Gordon/Harry Warren standard "I Wish I Knew" gets a terrific new interpretation with arrangements from Eames as Trumpeter Jenkins blows softly on his original "Love Is Kind" while the 1941 Burton Lane staple "How About You" comes to life with Jenkins and Peterson's stepped up solos and frisky key work from the pianist. Drummer Dick Weller comes to the fore with handy stick work, tasteful cymbal accents on the light mid-tempo Eames original "The Elms." Perhaps the liveliest number of the set goes to the appropriately titled "You're My Thrill" where it seems everyone on the band gets into it with gusto.
Peterson's arrangement of bebop pianist Steve Strazzeri's original and title track "Frame Of Mind" tones it down a bit with the music being more in line with the Cool Jazz side of West Coast as might also be said of the following "If I Should Lose You." Unlike the main theme of the recording however, the session ends with Oliver Nelson's bluesy "Yearnin' " from the landmark album The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961, Verve).
West Coast music may be an assemblage of many style of jazz but, it has never been boring or outdated and in that light, L.A. 6 is doing their part in keeping this flame eternal. Frame Of Mind is not just a wonderful tribute to West Coast Jazz, it is a spotlight on today's modern heroes of jazz who have chosen to carry on a tradition and do so, in compelling fashion.
Track Listing: The Eternal Triangle; Sight Seen At Twilight; Wonder Where You Are; I Wish I Knew; Love Is Kind; How About You; The Elms; You're My Thrill; Frame Of Mind; If I Should Lose You; Yearnin'.
Personnel: Clay Jenkins: trumpet; Ira Nepus: trombone; Tom Peterson: tenor saxophone; Rich Eames: piano; Jeff D'Angelo: bass; Dick Weller: drums.
Record Label: Jazzed Media