Terell Stafford gives us New Beginnings , an eclectic blend of standards, spirituals and originals. The disc opens with Fletcher Henderson's "Soft Winds", a smooth midtempo tune. Stafford's notes soar and chuckle as he solos. Alto saxophonist Jesse Davis takes a smoky turn and Harry Allen follows on tenor, his sound reminiscent of Lester Young. Pianist Mulgrew Miller sparkles on his short, spirited solo. "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed" features Stafford skipping along in a moment of Harmon-muted exuberance. Miller opens the spiritual "He Knows How Much You Can Bear" with a perfect Sunday morning intro that flows effortlessly into a breezy Latin beat, Dick Oatts' alto sax blending seamlessly with Stafford's flugelhorn.
The disc's centerpiece is the "New Beginnings Suite", a trio of tunes that display Stafford's talents as a composer. The spicy "Selah" opens the suite, with Derrick Hodge's electric bass line serving as the song's funky heartbeat. "Le Maurier" begins with Hodge plucking an acoustic intro, followed by fabulous reed work by Stafford and Oatts. "Berda's Bounce" is a lightfooted romp which is a showcase for Miller, and features fine alto work by Steve Wilson.
"Blame It On My Youth" features lovely piano work by Miller supporting Stafford's fluttering, seductive flugelhorn, and drummer Dana Hall supplies splendid brush work. Stafford translates the spiritual "Kumbaya", the disc's closer, perfectly into the jazz idiom. The band knows the Lord is on His way, so they're just blowing some notes until He arrives.
Reviews"Even one run-through was enough to know it's his strongest CD yet, a veritable piÃ±ata of goodies. It's packed with great material, nicely balanced between originals (his own superb three-movement suite), expertly-rendered standards, and innovative takes on traditional tunes, all full of crackling energy." - All About Jazz