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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - Without You, No Me
Artist - Temple University Jazz Band

For those not in the know, this project Without You, No Me (out now via BCM+D Records) began as a way to celebrate the musical legacy of Philadelphia’s native son Jimmy Heath after his January 2020 passing, but it morphed into something grander — with many more Philly facets — along the way.

Under the direction of Terell Stafford, these winners of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s inaugural Jack Rudin Jazz Championship have honored late tenor saxophonists Heath and Bootsie Barnes, B-3 player Shirley Scott, and revered Temple basketball coach John Chaney.

Three contemporary Philly jazz greats — Joey DeFrancesco, Christian McBride, and Larry McKenna — were also brought aboard. The organist and bassist are guest artists; McKenna, dean of the city’s tenor players, arranged one tune.

“Jimmy Heath was an incredible human being,” Stafford says. “When I got the phone call saying that he had just passed, I was totally devastated and broken. The next day I called Temple Dean Robert T. Stroker and said, ‘I hope we can find a way to honor Mr. Heath this year.’ So, we started to prepare some music --and then the pandemic hit.”

Thanks to the tenacity and ingenuity of Stafford and his colleagues, Without You, No Me is the second new album released by the Temple University Jazz Band in the wake of the pandemic.

The first, the aptly titled Covid Sessions: A Social Call, was recorded long-distance, in student’s homes across the country, via the innovative portable sound rigs devised by Grammy and Emmy Award-winning recording engineer John Harris and Temple Music Technology Professor Dr. David Pasbrig.

Without You, No Me was captured at much closer range. The musicians were able to convene in the spacious confines of the Temple Performing Arts Center in April 2021, with filters and covers over the bells of the horn players and breaks every half hour for air exchange.

The 12 feet of space and plexiglass dividers between them were less than optimal but still an improvement over the miles and days that had separated them on their previous outing.

Harris and Pasbrig’s rigs were dusted off to facilitate this session’s special guests, bassist Christian McBride and organist Joey DeFrancesco.

Indeed, the title Without You, No Me acknowledges a debt to the past, one that is paid by keeping memories alive.

1. Passing of the Torch
2. Without You, No Me
3. Bootsie
4. Please Don’t Talk About Me
5. In That Order [Joey DeFrancesco]
6. Voice of the Saxophone
7. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love [Christian McBride]
8. The Wise Old Owl
9. The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ (But Some Pain)
10. Perdido [Joey DeFrancesco & Christian McBride]

This beautifully structured and heartfelt musical tribute opens on the fervently exuberant Passing of the Torch and the mid-tempo, dancefloor twirl of the title track (which was actually originally commissioned by Dizzy Gillespie and named in the iconic trumpeter’s honor; and as Jimmy Heath himself once wrote about his relationship to Dizzy Gillespie, the experience is “like being on a musical mountaintop or hitting a high note”), and then we get the finger-snapping, up-tempo high top roll of Bootsie, a brassy rendition of the standard Please Don’t Talk About Me, and then DeFrancesco’s jaw-dropping organ skills are showcased to perfection on In That Order.

Up next is one of my own personal favorites, the lushly rendered, now lovingly embodied with vibrant hues by this oh-so stellar ensemble I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, which is in turn followed by the low key, late night crawl of The Wise Old Owl (inspired by the school’s avian mascot, and also by Hall of Fame basketball coach, the late John Chaney, who led Temple to 17 NCAA tournaments during his 24 seasons at the University), the album rounding out on The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ (But Some Pain) (which sees the group dig deep into their own blues to capture the tune’s sense of heartache and remorse), closing on a rather fantastical arangement of Juan Tizol’s Perdido.

While it’s safe to say that much about this album falls under the category of the unforgettable – recorded during an unforgettable period in history, undertaken in honor of some of the city and the music’s most unforgettable visionaries – it nonetheless repays that debt with dazzling enthusiasm and gratitude.

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