Ed Neumeister Quartet – Featuring Fritz Pauer: piano, Drew Gress: bass & John Hollenbeck: drums
A musicians’ musician, Neumeister has it all – tone, range, multiple sounds and a virtuosity that makes him as formidable a classical player as he is in jazz. Neumeister has performed with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Duke Ellington Orchestra (under the direction of Mercer Ellington) for almost two decades and developed a reputation as one who “re-does standards” after receiving a Grammy nomination for his arrangement of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" from the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra CD Too You.
New Standards - CD
All Music Guide, **** (excellent)
This release features trombone phenom Ed Neumeister in a rare, intimate setting as leader of a first-class quartet. The American trombonist's classical music background is reflected in his carefully articulated lines and pristine sound, but as with Wynton Marsalis, Neumeister is equally at home playing jazz standards, as he does here with considerable aplomb. Boasting a comfortable three-octave range, the under-recorded Neumeister easily negotiates the changes to his complex "Spring Street," in which he leaps wide intervals with incredible speed, and on the signature Strayhorn tune "Take the 'A' Train," on which the trombonist soloed regularly during his time with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In terms of technique, Neumeister can do it all, from exhibiting expansive range; spectacular agility; trills; and old-time, down-home, gut-wrenching effects with the wah-wah mute, something he displays to excellent effect on Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacock." At his best, as on the latter tune, the trombonist is one of the finest of his generation, an underrated giant waiting to be discovered…”
17 January 2005
Section player and sideman steps out to confirm that arranging and chops can revitalize a handful of chestnuts. New Standards works because Prof. Neumeister is one hell of a trombonist, and design-wise, his solos are fanciful reveries (check that mute work on "The Peacocks") that nonetheless boast a steely logic.
OneFinalNote.com, by , 13 June 2005
Standards remain the lifeblood of much of the so-called “Jazz Tradition”. There are literally hundreds of recordings each year that look to these timeless melodies, though precious few really go out on a limb in the interest of doing something different. While trombonist Ed Neumeister’s New Standards doesn’t necessarily radicalize the tradition (nor is it an all standards program), he offers compelling versions of three warhorses and a relatively unknown John Scofield composition from the guitarist’s 80s funk/fusion period. As for Neumeister’s bio, he has appeared as a member of a number of ensembles, including the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis (and later, the Vanguard Orchestra), Gerry Mulligan, and the Duke Ellington band, under Mercer Ellington’s baton, as well as several sessions as a leader. This release focuses on Neumeister in a small group setting, allowing the focus to be placed on his writing/arranging skills and his formidable ‘bone technique.
Commencing with Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train”, the group demonstrates its buoyant sense of swing, as the familiar theme adds a touch of Duke’s “Satin Doll” before Neumeister adds a burnished solo over a path of shifting tempos—the musical equivalent of a train ride. Worth noting immediately is the rock-solid rhythm section work, with pianist Fritz Pauer’s articulate piano lines, Drew Gress’ uplifting bass tones, and John Hollenbeck’s ever-tasteful drumming. The trio sparks John Scofield’s “Pick & Pans”, a funky groove that demonstrates the bubbling joy of this quartet. Neumeister demonstrates his skill with a plunger mute on Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks”, with ample use of vocal-like wah-wahs (à la Tricky Sam Nanton). The arrangement adds a gloss of mystery to the piece, with the most poignant moments occurring during his introductory foray in the Gress’ company. As for the standards, the quartet concludes with Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low”, not a radical recast, but an enjoyable closer.
The two Neumeister compositions—“Spring Street” and “A Walk in the Woods”—are congenial, mid-tempo journeys. As with the other tracks here, these two pieces keep one’s interest due to the fact that there is an underlying sense of merriment on the part of Neumeister’s supporting cast. Fleshing that out, the former thrives on incisive work from the rhythm section, in particular Hollenbeck’s accents and measured solo statements, while the latter, a more than ten-minute reflection on “Come Rain or Come Shine”, allows each member of the group to stretch out and add their individual talents. Overall, it’s a fun, straight-ahead session where Neumeister and crew add their own creative personalities, resulting in solid tunesmanship and ensemble work.
All About Jazz Review, January 2005
A mainstay for leaders from Dixieland through swing, the T-bone never quite recovered from bop, the unfortunate result being that inventive trombone-led combos have been few and far between. However, one listen to New Standards from trombonist Ed Neumeister's quartet, makes it clear that things needn't have turned out the way they did.
With quickly and crisply enunciated solos that encompass the upper registers, Neumeister at times rings out trumpet-like on the self-composed selections “Spring Street” and “A Walk in the Woods.” Both serve as opportunities to match improvisatory skill with European pianist Fritz Pauer. With highly adept articulation and mute work, Neumeister is then able to turn pianist Jimmy Rowles' classic “The Peacocks” into a showcase for the trombone's uncanny capability to mimic the human voice.
While Neumeister is clearly front and center, the session gels. This is in large part due to the creative yet solid NYC rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer John Hollenbeck, who, along with Pauer, propel things forward while keeping them focused. Ellington's “Take the A-Train” sounds fresh by virtue of Neumeister's coloration and the new course the band charts for this well-ridden route. Likewise, the oft-interpreted Kurt Weill piece “Speak Low” maintains its enchanting melodic mystery and vocal nature, primarily through Pauer's direction, as each band member uses it as a vehicle for personal expression.
With New Standards, Neumeister has released a session that breaks down the trombone's stereotype by highlighting its breadth and diverse tonal capabilities within the framework of a cohesive group sound.