Playdate brings together a trio of long time friends and musical collaborators. Guitarist Amanda Monaco, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, and pianist Noah Baerman have known each other since high school, studying music together at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, Connecticut. The ensemble is rounded out by bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza for a lively quintet set of originals and lesser-known jazz gems.
The disc opens with Monaco’s spirited hard-bopping swinger “Copper Tone,” a perfect warm-up vehicle for the lyrical guitarist, as well as Escoffery and Baerman. The three deliver succinct solos, spurred by Lugo’s pulsating walking lines. Baerman’s waltz “Remember the Goldfish,” a disc highlight, has a rhythmic give-and-take with catchy thematic sweeps. Here, Escoffery builds his tenor solo to a level of otherworldly intensity, followed by an explosive drum excursion by Sperazza.
A colorful rubato guitar introduction sets the pace for “Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!,” a groovy minor blues by the late pianist James Williams. “T-Time,” composed by Baerman is the most intricately composed piece from the session, utilizing the instrumentation at hand to skillfully weave together a variety of motifs into a coherent unit. Refreshingly, the tune settles into a more straightforward middle section, allowing Escoffery to soar on soprano saxophone.
The disc slows to a melancholic turn with “Baby Man,” a swaying ballad by the late saxophonist John Stubblefield. Escoffery and Monaco seem to relish in the tune’s laid-back groove, exhibiting patient and thoughtful lines. Sperrazza contributes the disc’s closing tracks, “Milan Kundera,” an exotic sounding piece with an odd-metered funky feel and “Memday,” a light-as-air ballad featuring a strong bass solo by Logo.
The camaraderie and shared musical vision of the ensemble is evident throughout this superb recording. Hopefully, there are more playdates scheduled.
Track listing: Copper Tone; Remember the Goldfish; Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!; T-Time; Baby Man; Milan Kundera; Memday.
Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: saxophone; Noah Baerman: piano; Amanda Monaco: guitar; Vinnie Sperrazza: drums; Henry Lugo: bass.