By: Edward Blanco

Less than a year from the release of his highly-acclaimed self-titled debut, Michael Benedict & Bopitude, drummer Benedict unleashes a monster recording of sizzling hard-bop fulfilling an objective to, as he states “present hard-bop jazz in its pure form…creating harmony, improvisation, textures and rhythms in jazz.” Loaded with uncommon covers and standards from the songbooks of jazz giants Sonny Stitt, Thaddeus J. Jones, Miles Davis, Hank Mobley, Gary McFarland and Kenny Dorham among others, Benedict does a masterful job in designing a terrific album of classic hard-bop sure to be devoured by hard core jazz audiences everywhere.

Making the project interesting and enticing, the drummer gathers his very able quintet of trumpeter Chris Pasin, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Mike Lawrence and tenor saxophonist Brian Patneaude and makes one important addition to the group. Joining the band is veteran baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan who—whether lending his talents on sprite solo moments or helping to deliver a two-sax assault on the select repertoire—provides the edge that makes this recording so compelling and the title so appropriate, for Five And One is just that.
The swing and smoke of this hot session begins on Sonny Stitt’s “The Eternal Triangle” featuring the first of several two-sax attacks with an immediate salvo from the featured guest with Patneaude following on tenor and Pasin weighing in on a blistering trumpet as the threesome continue their interchange throughout the tune. The Thaddeus J. Jones chart, “Three And One” delivers several seemingly improvised solo moments moving this piece into the must hear category and one of the best on the album.

The fast-paced “Compulsion” keeps the fire burning and would make its author (Miles Davis) proud of the way this version turns out. All is not hot and heavy however, as there are three tunes not falling in the hard-bop genre beginning with the brief but beautiful J.J. Johnson ballad “Enigma,” flowing soft and cushy containing trumpet, piano and the horns blowing warmly against Benedict’s delicate brush strokes. McFarland’s Brazilian-flavored “Train Samba” is another departure from the theme but offers one of the best pieces of the disc. “ Last Rites For The Promised Land,” the other McFarland contribution, is the finale piece and the last non hard bop wonder of the album.

Other superb burner’s to watch out for are the delicious “As Quiet As It’s Kept,” “Infra-Rae” and Nat Adderley’s classic “Work Song” performed under a fresh new arrangement by pianist Barth. The sounds of bebop and hard-bop are alive and well and Michael Benedict has made it his business to keep the music front and center in the jazz world as his group’s title readily affirms. With Five And One, the attitude for bop is loud and clear.

Year: 2012 Label: Planet Arts Artist Web: