New York, NY (Top40 Charts) Troy Roberts steps forward with his eleventh release as a leader, Days Like These - an amalgamation of his journey as one of the leading young lions, emerging in today's jazz idiom. Roberts also steps forward as a label owner with Toy Robot Music, his own signature brand that will begin with his first offering featuring two fellow bandstand mates, the first being luminary organist Joey DeFrancesco. Roberts has enjoyed being a regular member of DeFrancesco's band for four years, he regularly tours and records with DeFrancesco and has appeared on two of his releases; Project Freedom (2017) and In The Key Of The Universe (2019). Roberts also had the esteemed pleasure of appearing on the iconic Van Morrison albums, The Prophet Speaks (2018) and You're Driving Me Crazy (2018) - MD'd by DeFrancesco.
Also joining Roberts on this latest endeavor is another of his longtime collaborators, drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts. Roberts was also a Jeff 'Tain' Watts Quartet member for five years, and appeared on three of his records; Blue, Vol. 1 (2015), Wattify (2016) and Blue Vol. 2 (2016). In turn, Watts appeared on two of Roberts albums; Secret Rhymes (2015) and Tales & Tones (2017). Roberts reconnects with pianist/organist Emmet Cohen, who appears on five tracks, the two have a great comradery in their playing. Roberts explains, "we played a lot of organ trio together back in our Miami days when he was a student and I was on faculty (University of Miami's Frost School Of Music)".
The opener is Albert Hague's "My Girl is Just Enough Woman For Me," which Stanley Turrentine also recorded on numerous occasions. The power organ trio channels a deep sense of swing on this one. Roberts' note choices and harmonic flow are classic in nature and filled with his usual outstanding articulation and phrasing. Jerome Kern's "Why Was I Born" is next. DeFrancesco brings the melody in with an exceptionally graceful and virtuosic intro, and Roberts' command of the ballad style billows with gorgeous note choices. "Trams" is a Roberts original that highlights a modern-day jazz vocabulary, set to a different kind of 'jazz groove' that one may presume is intended to mimic the said mode of public transport. But in fact, Roberts explains, "The melody is actually the bassline played backwards, so appropriately, the title is also a semordnilap of the word, Smart. I often have fun playing these kind of compositional games". The trio is interactive, the bond and respect between the players is beautifully obvious. This composition also appeared on the Grammy-nominated album, Presence by Orrin Evans & The CaptainBlack Big Band, which features Roberts. "The Waltz of Parting Days" is another fine original composition constructed around a charmingly melancholic melody. The fullness, warmth and clarity of Roberts' tone exhibits a perfect blend of the Jazz tradition with today's modern sonorities.
Emmet Cohen takes over the organ chair for the second half of the album. This is a splendid choice by Roberts, giving the back half of the set a contrasting texture and sound, but still superlatively musical. "Sly Old Dog" is an original Roberts contrafact based on the harmonic progression of Cole Porter's "It's Alright With Me" which sets the tone for set two with this up-tempo 'burner'. Gradually evolving into a wild 'burn-out', the band surprises the listener by closing the track with a little church visit from out of the blue. Roberts' original, "Jack the Sipper" appeared on his Nu-Jive Perspective release, but this time is given a straight-eight treatment and is once again a testament to Roberts' compositional abilities. He explains, "The tune sets the scene for a serial alcoholic who emerges in the night, sneaking undetected from bar to bar in a somewhat comical re-imagination of the fabled Jack The Ripper." Returning to the standards, Roberts delivers a haunting rendition of the Wayne, Hoffman and Sigler tune "Little Man You've Had a Busy Day." Hearing Roberts play standards is very rewarding, his understanding of the genre is evident, but he always pushes forward with his own unique voice. Roberts concludes the project with an up-tempo original, "Wizard of Ozroop" perhaps a reference to his homeland of Australia? The trio's playing is superb, interactive, and dynamic, forging fantastic angles through harmonic settings that will surprise, but most importantly, the feel is supremely swinging!
Days Like These is a transcendent listen. A versatile saxophonist, each of his eleven leader releases reflect the many talents Roberts posses as a reedman and composer. On Days Like These, Roberts reveals a 'tip of the hat' to some of his heroes including Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin and Eddie Harris. The program consists of three relatively obscure standards, and five of Roberts' originals, giving the album a textural balance. Recorded at Tedesco studios, this album was captured in one day, adding to the spontaneity and organic nature of each track.
PLAYERS & INSTRUMENT:
Troy Roberts - tenor saxophone
Joey DeFrancesco - organ (1-3)
Emmet Cohen - organ (4-8)
Jeff 'Tain' Watts - drums
TRACKS AND TIMES:
1) MY GIRL IS JUST ENOUGH WOMAN FOR ME (9:58)
2) WHY WAS I BORN (10:49)
3) TRAMS (10:12)
4) THE WALTZ OF PARTING DAYS (7:07)
5) SLY OLD DOG (9:27)
6) JACK THE SIPPER (6:46)
7) LITTLE MAN YOU'VE HAD A BUSY DAY (9:56)
8) WIZARD OF OZROOP (10:23)