Daniel Rotem (ts), Josh Johnson (as), Alex Boneham (b), Christian Euman (d)
Bar code: 8427328435635
Fresh Sound Records has been synonymous with West Coast jazz since its inception back in 1983. Through the years, we have recorded many of the men who built the scene, outstanding soloists who have become part of the jazz history we know and love. Now we are back to the roots with this new branch of our New Talent series, dedicated to today's emerging generation of stalwarts, all hailing from California.
The Blue Whale club has been like a second home for many of us who dedicate our lives to creating and sharing music in Los Angeles and was also where I met Jordi Pujol for the first time. That night the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Program, which I had the privilege to be a part of, was presenting the last of a monthly concert residency at the LA jazz hub. At the time I was about to release my debut album ‘Be Nice’, and was contemplating releasing it through a label. You can imagine my surprise when Jordi came up to me after the concert and introduced himself. Growing up I remember listening to many of my favorite artists and their recordings on Fresh Sound, and I was very happy for the fortunate and unexpected meeting.
Jordi and I got together the next day and spoke about life, and the importance of music in the world. We ended up staying in touch even after he flew back to Spain, and a year later when Jordi came to visit Los Angeles again I invited him to a show I was playing that I had a feeling he might like. At the time, Josh Johnson and I were playing a weekly gig at a small bar in Los Angeles (with a piano-less quartet led by drummer Martin Diller). Josh has been one of my favorite musicians and closest friends since I moved to LA (he is also a Monk Institute alumnus) and getting to play and listen together every week was something that I was constantly looking forward to.
Jordi was very excited by the two saxophones quartet and the interplay and communication that were at the core of the music and asked that we record an album for Fresh Sound with the same band format - alto and tenor saxophones, bass, and drums. We recorded a few months later, choosing to focus on playing standards and songs by artists that we love, just like we would in our weekly gig. This album is a direct result of that initial meeting back in June 2016, and we hope you enjoy it. Thank you for listening
—Daniel Rotem & Josh Johnson
"Jordi Pujol’s Fresh Sound label is devoted, among other things, to documenting the creativity of jazz on the west coast of America. Rotem and Johnson are two of the brightest newish names on the Los Angeles scene. Each has a freshly rounded, cool yet charged sound along with a matching capacity for pliable thematic exposition in their phrasing. Overall, Sweet Stuff is an attractive document of the mature yet questing breadth and depth of their approach to both repertoire and group interplay.
The album title comes from a minor gem of a ballad by Horace Silver; Monk is here (We See, Let’s Cool One) and so is Herbie Hancock (Sonrisa), Benny Golson (Along Came Betty) and Ornette Coleman (When Will The Blues Leave?); Billy Strayhorn (Chelsea Bridge) and Joe Henderson (Serenity). Add in the standard All Or Nothing At All and you have just under 50 minutes of airily interwoven yet penetrating, finely crafted music to delight intellect and senses alike.
A little research on the two saxophonists revealed the diversely nurturing impact of Messrs (and Masters) Lester Young and Wayne Shorter, which should give you a fair idea of what to expect here. The absence of a piano serves both to free things up and to underline the literate awareness of four excellently attuned musicians.
There’s a lovely, spacey bounce to the grooves laid down by Boneham and Euman (hear the pizzicato-swung and brushes-caressed Betty, in particular) but the leaders can also get (poetically) abstract at times, as in their near-ethereal duo take on Hancock’s Sonrisa. The quartet’s lovely ride-out on Coleman’s take on the blues wraps things up to irresistible effect, concluding an album to which I aim to return many a time."
Michael Tucker (May 30, 2019)