Saxophonist Brad Linde's Latest Album is a Home Run
It might sound like a corny concept, but this baseball-themed jazz album is both rich in melody and remarkably low-key.
MICHAEL J. WEST JAN 3, 2017
“To hit .400,” an umpire said to baseball legend Ted Williams just before he managed the feat in 1941, “a batter has got to be loose.” Saxophonist Brad Linde got that memo. “Loose” is the word for All-American, the baseball-themed second album by his Team Playersensemble. For all its obsession with rich melody and elaborate harmony, the album’s vibe is remarkably low-key; it’s as if Linde’s quintet just banged this music out during a Saturday afternoon hang.
Which means that even its weirdest material makes for a fun listen. Billy Wolfe, the band’s second reedman, contributes a four-movement suite called “On Ivy; Cracker Jacks (And the Infield Fly Rule)” that uses the atonal 12-tone system as its backbone. Not exactly hummable tunes—with the notable exception of its dual-horn fourth part, “Fieramente”—but the off-and-running energy of guitarist Aaron Quinn in its opening “Molto Allegro” immediately engages the ear and doesn’t let up. The slow “Tempo di Valse,” featuring bassist John J. Williamson, exchanges suspenseful intrigue for energy; the collective “A Piacere” (which segues into “Fieramente”) goes for ominousness—with its trajectory, and thus the ominousness, increasing as it goes.
Then there’s Linde’s Hammond organ, the album’s most—ahem—inside-baseball component. Not that it sounds like the chipper instrument one hears at the ballpark. Linde uses it for punchy groove on “Swing Batter Batter, Swing!” adding in a few of the greasy, soul-drenched long tones that mark the Hammond’s jazz tradition. These become the foundation of Linde’s solo piece “Louisville Slugger,” after its noodly first third settles into syncopated slinkiness. The organ also grounds two collective improvisations, based on fractured and somewhat silly—and yes, loose—takes of baseball’s two most famous organ songs, “Charge” (here called “Give me the hotdog, baby!”) and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The former of these is especially entertaining, with Quinn’s guitar combining the thorny style of Mary Halvorsonwith the sound of a setup on the fritz.
The rest of the material on All-American is decisively less offbeat. Indeed, being on-beat is key for All-American: its success depends on the crack rhythm section of Williamson and drummer Deric Dickens. Vivacious as the melody on Dickens’ “On Base Percentage” is, for example, it’s only possible by virtue of their rollicking swing. Ditto Linde’s surf-rock “Bat Boy,” with Wolfe’s and Linde’s dueling ramshackle tenor solos held together by nothing but scotch tape and backbeat. (Quinn’s pitch-perfect genre riffing gets extra credit here, too.) But they’re not all about adrenaline. Dickens’ delicacy with brushes, for example, allows the band to find heretofore unknown delicacy in Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” and brings out great pathos in “With Frozen Feet.” Only the dreary album-closing rendition of “Just A Gigolo” misfires in this department.
That leaves All-American with a 14-for-15 record. In baseball, that’s the stuff of batting titles."
About the Artists
Brad Linde's TEAM PLAYERS
Brad Linde - muted alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Billy Wolfe - tenor saxophone
Aaron Quinn - guitar
Deric Dickens - drums
Team Players is a quartet collective of composers and improvisers from various places in the US. Inspired by the chamber ensemble sound and free jazz of trail blazers Jimmy Giuffre and Paul Motian, the quartet celebrates the release of their new album, All American.
Brad Linde is a saxophonist, bandleader, and presenter in the Washington DC metro area. He has worked with legendary musicians including Lee Konitz, Teddy Charles, Barry Harris, Grachan Moncur III, Andrew Cyrille, Joe Chambers, and Dan Tepfer, Matt Wilson, Ethan Iverson, and many others.
As an improviser, he currently works in duo with pianist ERIKA DOHI and with cellist Janel Leppin and guitarist Anthony Pirog in THIRD WHEEL. He composes for his trio UNDERWATER GHOST featuring Pirog and bassist Nathan Kawaller and his quartet collective TEAM PLAYERS (w/ Billy Wolfe, Aaron Quinn and Deric Dickens).
In 2010, he founded and began co-directing the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra - a 17-piece big band in residence at the historic club, and was the director of the 10-piece chamber group the Brad Linde Ensemble (BLE) and the 5 saxophone/rhythm section band "Sax Of A Kind" (2007-2014).
Brad maintained a long performance relationship with the legendary hardbop pianist/composer Freddie Redd, performing at Smalls Jazz Club, Birdland, JALC and other venues in New York, DC, and Baltimore from 2009 through 2013. He was also the musical director for the Freddie Redd/Butch Warren Quintet. He has co-led a New York-based group with one of the original Tristano School members, tenor saxophonist Ted Brown, since 2010.
From 2011-2014, he was curator of the cutting-edge jazz series at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Northeast Washington DC, presenting artists including Mark Turner, Steve Coleman, Ambrose Akinmusire, Darcy James Argue and more. He is on faculty at Northern Virginia Community College and is a contributor to Grove Music Dictionary and Capitalbop.com. He is in demand as a clinician and lecturer on improvisation and jazz history and is currently working on a book about Lester Young. He was a participant in the Banff International Jazz and Creative Music Workshop 2013 and he studied with Barry Harris and Lee Konitz, among others.