Recommended: Puzzlebox – “A Place To Be”


Puzzlebox - "A Place to Be"This is one for you old-school fans.  Well, this is also one for the new-school jazz fans, too, because it’s just that good.  But I mention the old-schoolers because A Place To Be is likely, almost guaranteed, really, to send you adrift in nostalgia for the Hard Bop recordings of the 60’s, when heat and steam and elegance and warmth were breathed out in the same expressions, creating a timeless music that was the soundtrack for any and every minute of your day.  The octet Puzzlebox conjured up some seriously potent sounds on their 2010 release.

This is music that can shift seamlessly between states of lightheartedness and ferocity.  It’s music that can drift peaceably and then suddenly, in what seems like an uninterrupted exhalation, jump up in joyful exultation.  The opening tracks “Half Remembered Theme from a Film Noir” and “Ronan’s Dream” are practically descended by blood from the 1960 James Clay classic recording A Double Dose of Soul.  Clay showed on that recording how flute could command a huge presence without resorting to shrill dramatics and unnecessary fussiness, that the flute’s light touch and hazy presence were complementary attributes that only needed a spark to give the impression of a flame.  On A Place To Be, Stan Slotter clearly grasps that concept, and it’s why his solid trumpet passages are eclipsed by his outstanding performance on flute.

“6:25PM” adds some edge to the melody.  It doesn’t cut deep, but it’s sharp enough to draw a little blood, and the tempo stomps more than bops.  And after the ethereal presence of the flute in the previous tracks, it’s nice to hear the trombone step up and growl.  The higher intensity continues with the up-tempo burner “The Invisible Redux,” adding some Latin rhythms along the way so that the trip isn’t all about speed, but grace, too.  “Hair of the Dog” digs into a thick groove and thicker blues.  And all of this stuff swings.

I typically stick to only new releases on this site, and rarely stray further back than a couple years from the current spot on the calendar, but when I encountered this terrific recording, I had to shine the site’s spotlight on it.

Your album personnel:  Keith DeStefano (bass), Mark Allen (baritone sax), Maxfield Gast (alto & soprano saxophones), Steven Gokh (tenor sax), Joe Falcey (drums), Anam Owilii-Eger (piano), Stan Slotter (trumpet, flutes) and Larry Toft (trombone).

The album is Self-Produced.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Jazz from the Philadelphia, PA scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | CDBaby | Amazon