On the opening and title track, This I Dig of You, Larry takes the first chorus, schooling all who listen in the history of traditional jazz born in the Bebop era. Wackenhut follows with a delightful solo on this up-tempo standard penned by tenor sax great Hank Mobley.
Too Young to Go Steady highlights McKenna’s lush and beautiful tenor sound down to the subtone on the opening A section. The simple, original chord changes that others might reharmonize to death, are treated with just enough respect and restraint by the ensemble. The rhythm section compliments Larry McKenna’s tenor and yet never over plays. They simply provide a bed for his melodic and meaningful, never overdone, saxophone lines. Again, Wackenhut solos second showing off his ability to show restraint and at other times formidable technique on the piano. If it’s possible, McKenna shines even brighter on the out chorus than he did on the opening statement. The cadenza is pure Larry McKenna. Saxophone lovers will love the intimacy of hearing the key clicks among the last few sensitive stylings seeping out of the saxophone.
Clayton Road, Wackenhuts’ original composition is a pensive yet relaxing Latin groove, this time featuring Wackenhut first after the melody statement. For possibly the first time, on this CD the listener can really hear the contribution from Daryll Hall and Nick Ciminale on bass and drums. McKenna shows patience as always and only hints at his saxophone mastery at 3:53 into the cut. The unison between Wackenhut and McKenna at 4:59 is a subtle, yet welcome diversion from the separation of duties between the two.
Freddy’s Bounce, another Wackenhut original has McKenna and Wackenhut sharing the melodic duties followed by a medium swing romp by the quartet led by McKenna. Although the group does come to a unifying crescendo toward the end of the saxophone solo, they never lose control, focus or restraint – one of the most endearing qualities of This I Dig of You. Wackenhut stretches nicely following Larry McKenna’s saxophone solo all the while showing his knowledge of jazz tradition and sensitivity at the piano. Hall is the last to solo on bass with Wackenhut and Ciminale supporting underneath. The blues vamp and interplay between Wackenhut and McKenna is a bit unexpected, albeit a welcome surprise.
The final track, Manege is a jazz waltz, which features piano and saxophone weaving through the circular and colorful changes. Nick Ciminale gets his due on drums with some tasteful 8s opposite Wackenhut and McKenna. The final chorus displays another brilliant unison from Wackenhut and McKenna – and a fitting end to This I Dig of You from the Fred Wackenhut Quartet, featuring Larry McKenna.
I would be disappointed to find out that a lot of time and preparation went into the recording session for this CD. To this writer, it is a pristine example of traditional, improvised jazz quartet playing, featuring two of my favorite jazz musicians from Philadelphia. It never sounds contrived, polished or overly rehearsed. The spontaneity seems genuine and few or no rough edges exist in the recording. Although this is the first I have heard Hall and Ciminale, they are a perfect compliment to Wackenhut’s piano and McKenna’s saxophone.
You can find out more about Fred Wackenhut HERE.