As a former New Yorker now living in Chicago, it is always great when old New York jazz friends come to town. This month was especially a treat with bassist Tal Ronen rolling through the windy city. Ronen, who is easily one of the best bassists of his generation, is a regular at New York stalwart clubs, such as Smalls, 55 Bar, and the Fat Cat. Recently, he has been extremely visible in the jazz world as the bassist in jazz legend Frank Wess’s band.
Recently, Chicago jazz fans were treated to Tal’s performances with vocalist Abigail Riccards at Andy’s Jazz Club and Pete Miller’s. Hearing him perform again, I was instantly reminded of Ronen’s buoyant sound, his light touched walking, and his imaginative solos. Much like Paul Chambers, Ronen is a truly gifted accompanist, walking swinging bass lines that give soloists both solid support and freedom and contributing truly soulful solos on cue.
Ronen, who also hails from Israel, recently participated in delightful new recording project with vocalist and jazz guitarist, Dida Felled entitled “Plays and Sings”. The new recording, which was released on Red Records in 2011, is an all-star affair, featuring the amazing talents of drummer Gregory Hutchinson, as well as trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Fabio Morgera. The recording features the group in a number of formats. Among the highlights are Dida’s sultry vocals on “That’s All”, her lyrical guitar work on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, “Hargrove’s emotive solo on Wes Montgomery’s “Fried Pies”, and Morgera’s lilting swing on “Three Coins in a Fountain”. One the elements of the disc that really shines, however, is the light, swinging rhythm section work of Ronen and Hutchinson. Hutchinson brings to mind his outstanding brush work from his tenure in the Ray Brown trio. Ronen brings his knowledge of Ray Brown pedigree to the fore with exuberant, swinging solos on “After You’ve Gone” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”.
Although it was fun to check out this new release, it was even more of a pleasure to see and hear an old friend in my new hometown