John Bailey Time Bandits
Versatile and in-demand trumpeter and composer John Bailey has played alongside Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Jr., and Latin jazz giants Ray Barretto and Arturo O’Farrill as well as with major jazz musicians in NYC. The backing ensemble he has recruited for Time Bandits, his third album as a leader, is testament to his talent. Fronting a quartet that included mainstay drummer Victor Lewis, esteemed pianist George Cables, and virtuoso bassist Scott Colley, Bailey and crew deliver a varied set of seven originals, five by Bailey and one each by Lewis and Cables. In addition, they tackle a well-known standard, a Beatles tune, and a nod to Bailey’s original mentor, trumpeter Ira Sullivan. Bailey can swing with the best of them and quickly downshift into lovely ballads played on his flugelhorn.
The program opens with Bailey’s title track, the sharp, repetitive bursts from his trumpet inviting his bandmates to join in a swinging tune that bears elements of a New Orleans second line parade, and the bustling bebop heard on NYC’s 52nd street in the ‘50s. Cables is in his element, pushing the rhythm along with Lewis and Colley, each of whom step forward with brief statements of their own. “Various Nefarious” may well be inspired by the COVID viruses and whatever viral element is plaguing our political system (as we write, the Republicans can’t even decide on their leader). Musically, its soul-jazz shuffle fits into an Art Blakey-like groove, one perfectly suited to Blakey alumnus Cables, and perhaps the soulful strains that Bailey absorbed while working with Brother Ray. Colley impresses with his walking bassline and Lewis navigates the combo through those ‘various’ changes.
Bailey and Cables put their own harmonious stamp on Jerome Kern’s “Long Ago and Far Away,” making it a brisk swinger, while the first ballad, “Ode to Thaddeus,” nods to major trumpet influence, Thad Jones with Bailey’s sustained, warm tone and deeply emotive lines leaving no doubt to the degree ofc reverence which he holds for the iconic bandleader. It’s gorgeous statement. Lewis stirs the group to more nodding in his own “Oh Man, Please Get Me Out of Here” as strains of Dizzy, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, and Woody Shaw echo through Bailey’s high-pitched jabs and the strolling rhythms from Cables, Colley, and Lewis. The slowed tempo arrangement for The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” is another opportunity to digest the balladry elegance of Bailey and Cable, drawing out a deeper sense of melancholy than the song’s original. Bailey’s “Rose” is the freest flowing of the pieces with a challenging pattern built on five 12-tone rows, with surprises at each turn, like a game of hide-and-seek set to music.
Colley introduces “How Do Know,” by Gary Dial, originally appearing on the 1982 Sprint from Red Rodney and the Ira Sullivan Quintet, this a tribute to Bailey’s aforementioned mentor. We hear Bailey’s flugelhorn on Cable’s standout track, “Lullaby.” The piece originally appeared on Frank Morgan’s 1989 Mood Indigo and has Bailey and Cables in lockstep as a duo rendering the tune with stunning tenderness. Given Bailey’s stints in Latin jazz, he’d be remiss to not include at least one piece of that ilk and does so with his own rollicking closer, “Groove Samba.”
Bailey’s Time Bandits speaks to tradition and a mastery of the various jazz idioms that only a group of this caliber could execute so deftly. It’s a clinic in tone, harmony, swing, balladry, and precise, declarative soloing.
- Jim Hynes