Baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder has just released his debut recording entitled A Handful of Stars. Judging from the quality of the playing and recording here, Schroeder has grabbed a handful of stars for himself. Schroeder is joined by Graham Dechter on guitar, John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums.
The opening track I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed is set to a very nice, medium swing tempo. Dechter, Clayton and Hamilton chug on and on while Schroeder plays the big horn. Although his solo starts off tamely enough, Schroeder eventually pushes and pulls against the traditional groove laid down by the trio. A fine, bluesy solo by Graham Dechter counters the baritone solo. Lastly, Hamilton and Clayton trade tasty brushwork and short bass riffs back and forth.
The funky Midwest Mash is one of two songs penned by Schroeder on A Handful of Stars. Dechter solos first on guitar. The sound of Hamilton’s cymbals and drum kit is pristine here and elsewhere on the recording. Schroeder solos second on baritone sax followed by Clayton on bass. It is also interesting to note the harmonic contrast in the solos. Schroeder opts to take things out a bit here and there while Dechter and Clayton keep things inside by weaving in and out of the changes. Schroeder uses the changes more as a suggestion, rather than a pattern to follow closely. Neither approach is better, just an observable contrast in the solos.
Pensive Miss written by Neal Hefti features Schroeder on the A section and then a tasteful entrance to the bridge from the rhythm section led by Graham Dechter’s sparkling guitar. Schroeder’s baritone sound is quite endearing here – softer and silkier than before. His proverbial star shines brightest in this ballad setting. The last word is heard from the rhythm section sans baritone.
Jessica’s Birthday by Quincy Jones features a nice pairing of Schroeder’s baritone sax with Clayton’s upright bass and Dechter’s guitar. The unison figures between the solo drums are one of my favorite moments on A Handful of Stars.
I Happen To Be In Love by Cole Porter may be one of his lesser-known compositions but that is not lost on this ensemble. The group swings hard, providing the perfect bed for Schroeder’s baritone and occasional doubletime runs. Dechter’s chord solo with slight distortion is a gem to behold.
The second original from Adam Schroeder is Hidden Within. Schroeder’s lush baritone sound moans and cries out the melody. The sadness is palpable from melody to solo and up to the final cadenza. Well done Mr. Schroeder!
Jule Styne’s Just In Time begins with solo saxophone and gradually the rest of the group joins in one by one. The staggered entrances culminate in the harmonized figure spilling into a lovely guitar solo from Graham Dechter. It is particularly apparent what a wonderfully recorded ensemble this is. Each instrument sounds clearer and fuller than the next. This is likely a combination of the musicians in studio as well as the talents of engineer Steve Genewick, co-producer Tom Burns and Ron McMaster who mastered this recording.
Barry Harris’ Nascimento provides Schroeder and the ensemble a perfect opportunity to stretch out in bossa nova style.
The ambitious clip taken on the title track showcases Schroeder’s ability to play tempos with the best of ‘em. His articulation, lines and feel are a comprehensive in “how to play hard-bop.” His lines while trading with Jeff Hamilton are particularly noteworthy – every pun intended!
A well-deserved rest comes in the way of Just A Sittin’ & A Rockin’ following the blistering tempo of the previous track. John Clayton’s bowed and plucked bass duet with Schroeder’s sax offers a pleasant diversion from what is otherwise a slightly predictable straight ahead jazz album. This cut demonstrates another interesting side of the group.
Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me is the final, fast-paced standard with a bit of a twist on the bridge. Again it is Clayton and Schroeder enjoying a duet of bass and sax. Adam Schroeder executes a beautiful solo break flowing into a barrage of swing eighth notes. If the band is not having fun on this track, I haven’t heard what fun sounds like!
This is a fine effort for Adam Schroeder’s first solo release on Capri Records. I expect to be hearing lots more from Mr. Schroeder and this group.
You can find out more about Adam Schroeder at adamschroedermusic.com