November 9th, 2007
Among the essential ingredients for a successful recording session are the inclusion of exceptional musicians who understand the music idiom at hand and who possess the ability to create an easy flowing musical dialogue between one another. Get Ready, the first recording with drummer Carl Allen and bassist Rodney Whitaker as dual leaders at the helm, is successful in these regards. In this 2007 Mack Avenue release, Allen and Whitaker resurrect music from their youth—gospel, soul and Motown—and transform it into the language of jazz. A handful of the leaders’ mostly adequate original jazz compositions are also on display.
Side players, including saxophonist Steve Wilson, guitarist Rodney Jones, organist Dorsey Robinson, and pianist Cyrus Chestnut, are given ample room to stretch out. Two tracks are especially noteworthy: Chestnut delivers a swinging solo on “Get Ready,” and Wilson gives his best performance on Allen’s composition, “La Shea’s Walk” (this is also the best original composition on the CD).
In addition to being in-demand sidemen (collectively Allen and Whitaker have contributed to around 200 recordings) and leaders of their own successful recording ensembles, Allen and Whitaker are also established academics. Allen is Artistic Director of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School in New York City and Whitaker is Director of Jazz Studies and Associate Professor of Jazz Bass at Michigan State University. For Whitaker, Get Ready also provided an opportunity to shed light on the arranging skills of two of his former students. Of these, saxophonist/arranger Diego Rivera’s arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s hit “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” is noteworthy. Rivera transforms the timeless, laid back hit into a 1960s hard bop driving jazz piece.
While not an exceptionally memorable CD, what Allen and Whitaker have created here is a solid recording with some swinging solos. With this line up of musicians driven by two adept rhythm section leaders of the day, I would expect no less.
Posted by Karen Taborn