“How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?” ---Satchel Paige
The five members of this all-star group need no introduction. There are two unusual
things to note here: one, they don't play like your average all-star band. Here is a
cohesive unit that wants to play together, and that knows how to do that while
simultaneously leaving room for the individual talents of each member to shine. Two,
while hardly youngsters, these cats aren't sleepwalking; they are all still developing
and building their craft. The result is music steeped in tradition, but not shy about
taking chances. The opening track, “Mystery Song,” is a perfect example; it's a 2020
rendition of a tune originally recorded in 1931 by its composer, Edward Kennedy
1. Mystery Song / 5:52 / Duke Ellington
“I have loved this tune for years,” says pianist Copland. “I arranged it for my university
big band back in the 1960's. Over the years, I've found that whatever you've been
working on lately in your playing, this tune will gladly let you apply it.” The track opens
with drummer Baron playing on the skins directly with his hands, and Copland adlibbing an intro that combines his trademark improvised harmonies with an
unmistakable r & b flavor. Liebman, Gress and Alessi all acquit themselves admirably,
and after a final pass at the melody, the track ends with this very tuned-in rhythm
section inventing, as it so often does, an ending out of thin air.
2. Off a Bird / 3:48 / David Liebman
Composed with Charlie Parker in mind, this track packs a cornucopia of inspired
interaction into its under-four-minute length. Copland solos first, weaving quotes from
Bird's tunes into a playful romp, ably supported by drummer Baron. Liebman and
Brecker follow with a “free” duet, that leads to the out chorus, which the band plays in
a rhythmic unison of harmonic clusters.
3. Figment / 7:51 / Drew Gress
“This might be one of the hardest tunes we play,” says Copland about Gress's
composition, “and at the same time it's one of the most rewarding.” The chord
movements, while they sound natural, are not easy to negotiate---nevertheless,
Liebman and Brecker's solos sound almost effortless. The “hook,” like many pop
music hooks, is a short repeated phrase with the same rhythm, but the complex chord
it's based on is taken through six different keys. At the tune's end, a duet between the
two horns devolves into an ethereal painting by Copland that marks the end of the
4. Broken Time / 6:45 / Joey Baron
Over the years all members of QUINT5T have been bandleaders. Joey Baron is no
exception, and his tunes clearly demonstrate that this drummer knows how to employ
harmony and melody in a tune just as well as he deploys rhythm on his instrument.
Alessi, Liebman and Copland all stretch out in swinging fashion, with the composer
churning supportively underneath, before taking the tune home. Check out Gress's
work as the tune ends.
5. Moontide / 9:55 / Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker's tune provides a jumping off point for the composer, Liebman, and
Copland. Of particular interest here are the different ways in which each soloist
explores an extended section of one tonality, in this case B minor. Also of note is how
the three play a game of musical tag---Brecker and Copland each starts off his chorus
by answering the last melodic phrase of the previous player.
6. Child at Play / 6:58 / David Liebman
David Liebman wrote this tune while thinking of his daughter Lydia, and the feeling he
had as a father watching his then young child playing with friends. This deceptively
simple tune is another difficult series of chord changes, which the soloists navigate
with aplomb. Of special note is drummer Baron's solo chorus, in which he deftly
navigates the form of the tune to make his statement.
7. Broken Time (reprise) / 3:39 / Joey Baron
8. There's a Mingus Amonk Us / 6:27 / Randy Brecker
A reprise is a surprise here: Baron's swinger resurfaces as a tender free ballad, played
by a trio that clearly knows how to do just that. Copland credits Baron's openness for
this transformation. “I was fooling around with it at home, playing the changes very
slowly—which I do with most tunes, so I can really hear where it's going. This tune
sounded really cool that way. I asked Joey if he'd mind trying it as a slow ballad
instead of a medium swing---I was sure he'd think I'm crazy. But instead he smiled
and said “Let's try it.”
Like its title, this tune is filled with sly musical references and and double entendres.
Hidden beneath its surface are unconventional chord modulations and rhythmic
surprises. The band clearly has fun with this one.
9. Pocketful of Change / 9:11 / Joey Baron
This second contribution by drummer Baron also usually closes the band's live
performances. It's a gorgeous slow ballad in 12/8, leaving lots of room for these
players to explore. The ending is a bit of a surprise, leaving one with the sense that
there is more to come. That's a sentiment shared by all the members. “We did a tour
and it felt good, so we decided to record it,” says Brecker. And with more tours being
planned, it's fair to expect that the music will continue to feel good, and that the band
will continue to further explore that feeling.