Tom Ollendorff – Open House
Fresh Sounds Records FSNT 656 (CD review by Mike Collins)
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Listening to guitarist Tom Ollendorff’s new release, his second under his own name, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why there’s an urge to play it again whenever the nine tracks are finished. There’s a lot to like about this album.
The set comprises a hatful of original tunes, as well as a couple of bebop burners, Bongo Beep and Airegin, and the classic ballad My Foolish Heart. It’s red-hot band with Marc Michel on drums, Conor Chaplin on bass and New York tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel on four of the tracks. Another star of the show is the compositional hand of Ollendorff. He has a way with an attractive melody married to an energy that sucks the listener in, and pieces given forms that invariably have a twist in the tail.
Three Bridges Is immediately arresting, a catchy melodic motif, picked up by the sax and taken on into a flowing melody, driven on by a swaying even quavered groove from bass and drums, a joyful and breezy piece. It’s hard not to hear something Metheny-esque in the climatic arc of the melody and timbre of the guitar, Wendel wriggles and swoops before Ollendforrf unfurls a shapely, swirling and melodic solo. There’s an extended coda over which Wendel takes flight. Passing Ships is a pretty melody that could be a lullaby, all its wistful lyricism exploited by the trio before it darkens. This time, an extended closing section gets choppy and broods in Wendel’s hands. Carnival is another bright engaging melody with a bustling groove, Chaplin’s easily flowing bass lines burst into an expressive solo before the band ease up a gear into a quietly exultant samba feel under the guitar. Ollendorff layers arpeggios and darting melodic flurries building another absorbing beautifully paced solo. Bongo Beep and Airegin are taken at blistering tempo without feeling rushed, Airegin giving Michel space to cut loose. There are plenty of unexpected turns and changes of pace.
Ollendorff has toured extensively with this band and much of the material, perhaps why there’s a feeling of ease and expressiveness in the music. This a really fine set and seeking out a copy is highly recommended. It will not disappoint.