I have known and played with Tim for a decade now, and can say with confidence that he really does his homework. The tight arrangement on “Cheryl” and the way the guitar solo directs the band with rhythmic assertion proves that Tim has truly dug deep into the trio language, not only in the guitar tradition, but those of the piano and horns as well. On his arrangement of “Spring Is Here”, the time-feel draws from the great Art Blakey, dancing the line between 12/8 time and swing 4/4, with Tim almost pushing the band into hard-swinging 4 near the end of his solo with a chord melody reminiscent of Wynton Kelly or Joe Pass. He even sneaks in a nice little quote from “I’m Old Fashioned” during the end tag.
Tenor saxophonist Matt Otto joins the trio for a few cuts, and is consistently interesting and melodic. Playing a simultaneous solo (as he does with Tim on “Bridge For Larry”) is extremely difficult, as it requires the utmost degree of listening and openness to living “in the moment”; their complementary lines are a joy to hear. Otto is also featured on one of my favorite tracks, “Pine Street Waltz”. As a composer, I am always listening for creative arrangements and orchestrations, especially for smaller groups, and “Pine Street Waltz” is a skillful and refreshing take on a standard jazz quartet formation, with contrapuntal textures and a wonderful use of the bass within the texture of the melody. Beginning with a strong solo statement from bassist Bob DeBoo, the solos pass seamlessly from one to the next and back into the melody – each member of the band was really feeling the shape of this composition. The piece closes with a pensive coda that allows for a beautiful, flitting interaction between Otto and drummer Jake Reed’s brush work.
Tim did much of his Doctoral research on the music of Miles Davis’ first great quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, and I was fortunate to join him and the great Joe LaBarbera (a walking jazz encyclopedia himself) to perform some of the Davis repertoire for one of Tim’s DMA lecture recitals. A distinctive aspect of this repertoire that Tim has adapted to Due South is the use of the shout chorus; this can be heard on “Gone With The Wind” after the guitar solo, setting up space for some melodic phrases from Reed’s drums.
Referencing the big-band tradition through the use of shout chorus and solo send-offs is simply another aspect of Due South that shows a thoughtfulness and care for not only tradition, but for entertainment and engagement with the listener, something that is arguably missing from much music in the broad jazz canon. Although I don’t think that all music should concern itself directly with this relationship to the “audience”, I do feel that jazz, at its core, is music for people, and at its purest reflects a lightness, a sense of humor, and a constant attention to melody and the feel of motion and dance. When I listen to Due South, I hear melody, I hear dance, and I hear fun – hard to ask for much more than that.