Straight Ahead 2
DMQ: Straight Ahead Vol. 2 DMQ cooks. Always have. From their debut Straight Ahead through a zillion gigs and onto their fourth and latest here, Straight Ahead Volume 2. Listen how drummer Jeff Donavan kicks this thing off Blakey style with a rattling volley of snare shots. It's his tune, "Straight Up", and he gets out of the way quickly, dropping down to a mean rhythmic pulse, letting tenor Chuck Manning jump in, who starts easy, logically, then pushes his ideas outward, letting the melody skitter and bounce back and forth, even going off on a wild tangent before returning. Trumpeter Kye Palmer's turn. He too starts tentatively, explores the tune a bit, looking over the lay of the land, finally leaping up, way way up, coming down in one of Donavan's tight solos. Back to the head they all come for some fine ensemble playing. Stirring stuff. "Mario's Mode" is all Miles mute and muffled rhythm and dedicated to the man behind the bar at the Café 322....Curtis Brengle's piano comes to the fore here, with a long impressionist take, and bassist Larry Muradian takes a rare solo too. The sheen on the ensemble passages, the groove locked down, Manning adding little hints of counterpoint...that is the mark of a outfit that has a steady gig somewhere, that's played together for a long, long time. Nice to hear. Manning does good on "Moment's Notice", even keeping his madder impulses in check. And man does Palmer sound nice...listen to his high runs there. Brengle takes it straight ahead on the keys. Manning's final licks are so light and airy it Getz to you. And "Blue Minor" is a perfect vehicle for this band, as solidly grounded as they are in the sounds of the fifties and sixties NYC jazz. But Palmer owns the thing with that beautiful solo. "Skylark" is a surprise. It's gorgeous, and a vehicle for Palmer to run with, playing his horn like a star... There was a time when the ladies swooned for this stuff. That was so long ago. Now we can just dig it and wonder about them days. But "J.D.'s Groove" brings us forward a few decades, and Manning goes fractal bouncing off the groove, Palmer glides shining overhead and Brengle again lays down another liquid mercury run. Terrific vehicle for the soloists. Crowds love this stuff live. They wrap it up with "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes'. Dig Donavan's toms accenting beautifully under the tune. The dude like to bop the things. Shang-a-lang. This stuff screams airplay. It really does. The Donavan Muradian Quintet rocks. Straight ahead. --Brick Wahl.