Gregg Gelb, the ever-busy North Carolina saxophonist, clarinetist, band leader and educator, scores again with two recent albums. “Road Trip,” which features his quartet, is a straight-ahead affair with plenty of swinging ensemble and solo work. “La Fiesta,” which features his Latin jazz quintet, a group with personnel different from his quartet, is a rhythmically charged workout fit for dancing.
“Road Trip” includes five original compositions by Gelb plus Cedar Walton’s “Black,” an opener that establishes the quartet’s post-bop credentials. Drummer Christopher Gelb, the leader’s son, sparks the group throughout while Gelb senior, on tenor saxophone, solos with energetic, well-constructed lines. Deriving inspiration from the Gelbs’ drive, pianist Thomas Linger and bassist Charlton Provatas cook throughout. The five Gregg Gelb compositions that follow include a cleverly titled modal tribute to the late saxophonist John Coltrane called “50 Miles to Hamlet” (i.e., the approximate distance from Sanford, where Gelb lives, to Hamlet, where Coltrane was born) plus three swinging mainstream tunes and a pretty ballad called “Four D.”
On “La Fiesta” Gelb’s line-up includes pianist Stephen Anderson, bassist Andy Kleindienst, drummer Ramon Ortiz and percussionist Beverly Botsford. The percussion-driven quintet features three compositions by Gelb, one by Kleindienst and two well-known jazz repertoire items, Horace Silver’s “Cape Verdian Blues” and Wayne Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple.” Gelb’s “San Calypso,” which includes a driving Anderson piano solo, recalls the Sonny Rollins staple “St Thomas.” Throughout the album, Botsford and Ortiz impress you with their rhythmic acumen and drive.
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The Gregg Gelb Jazz Quartet
La Fiesta Latin Jazz Quintet