Wednesday, July 25, 2007


By Towner Galaher

One bad rap jazz is saddled with is that only exudes the blues, rather than expressing the joy of music. The happy horn of Clark Terry and cheerful vibes of Lionel Hampton are classic examples among instrumentalists to the contrary. Towner Galaher’s debut as a leader, Panorama, also demonstrates consistent high spirits through a program of rigorous post-bop swing.

Panorama is bookended by two originals presumably inspired by New York, the reigning capitol city of jazz. The first, “Midtown Shuffle,” propelled along by Galaher’s buoyant drumming, features sparkling solos from Maurice Brown on trumpet, Mark Shim on tenor, and Onaje Allen Gumbs on piano. The set also features rock solid support from bassist Charles Fambrough.

Galaher is more supportive than flashy on Panorama often giving his sidemen the solo spotlight. The standard “Have You Met Miss Jones?” is somewhat heavier on the percussion, with the addition of Latin percussionists Frank Colon and Johnny Almendra. Again, there are upbeat, swinging solos from Shim and Brown, continuing the happy vibes of the session.

Galaher well demonstrates his composing talent, particularly on the up-tempo Latin groover “Legba.” Galaher and his guest percussionists generate a lot of fire in the trickster’s name, which clearly energizes Brown and Shim.

The proceedings are not relentlessly upbeat. “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Charles Mingus’s requiem for Lester Young receives an appropriately respectful treatment in an interesting arrangement. (A happy, rousing rendition would frankly be a little weird.)

The upbeat mood returns with another original, “Charisma,” notable for the strutting high note work from Brown. The Latin vibe returns, moving uptown with closer, “East 104th Street.” It is a straight ahead burner, that while short, says plenty.

Throughout, the combination of veteran and emerging musicians sound inspired to dig into Galaher’s original compositions. As a result, Panorama is a promising debut that creates a consistently entertaining and uplifting mood.