Steve Grossman

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Time to Smile

This 1993 classic ought to be much more celebrated. The line-up is conventional (tenor, trumpet, piano, bass, drums), the selection of standards and originals is good but nothing out of the ordinary, and the ‘tune-solos-tune’ format used throughout is also completely standard. However the playing is exceptional. Grossman shows a strong Rollins-influence, which is interesting since back in the ‘70s he was very much a Coltrane-derived player. But Grossman has thoroughly moulded the Rollins influence into an instantly recognisable style of his own, replete with plenty of strangled screams, false notes, and sidesteps away from the harmony. Elvin Jones, in his mid-60s, sounds just as explosive and at times ferocious as he did in his heyday with Coltrane. Tom Harrell shows his usual complete fluency, reminiscent of Clifford Brown but with more up-to-date ideas. Cecil McBee booms and slides away unmistakably on bass, transforming the sound of the session as he transforms every session he appears on. And pianist Willy Pickens is a revelation: he is the least well-known player on the session, but clearly doesn’t deserve to be. Check out his solo on ‘This time the dream’s on me’, especially the break at the beginning and the chords at the end.