For “Heads Or Tales“, his 4th CD as a leader (and first for PosiTone Records), tenor saxophonist Tom Tallitsch convened a group that features Jared Gold (Hammond B-3),Dave Allen (guitar) and Mark Ferber (drums). Gold’s fine organ work, paired with Allen’s strong single-note lines and supported by Ferber’s insistent percussion, truly set the stage for this music. Tallitsch has no issue with sharing the spotlight so every player gets his due. Allen shines each time he gets to solo, no more so than on “The Lummox.” Tallitsch’s tenor style hearkens back to the sounds of early John Coltrane and Don Byas. You can hear a blues tinge yet he never overplays or just “blows” – his solos “sing”, even on faster tracks such as the high-speed drive of “Double Shot” or the funky, James Brown-influenced “Flat Stanley.” The ballads, especially “Perry’s Place“, show a tone as sweet as Lester Young and melodic inventions in the manner of Ben Webster. Yet, Tallitsch is neither a traditionalist nor a throwback. The rhythms that Gold and Ferber create for these original pieces (the sole exception, the emotionally charged ballad reading of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down“) are up-to-date without kowtowing to “trendiness.”
No need to flip a coin, “Heads Or Tales” is a winner any way you listen to it. I continue to be impressed with Jared Gold’s versatility and Mark Ferber’s stunning percussion while Dave Allen, who has released several CDs on Fresh Sounds New Talent, adds a sound that works well with the organ and tenor (his rhythm work is also quite good.) Tom Tallitsch has created a strong program with a group that would “burn down the house” in a club setting.