Mike Vax, an alumnus of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, has always been comfortable in several musical idioms. His career is filled with an endless number of associations including performances and recordings with Art Pepper, Gene Krupa, Don Ellis, Joe Williams, the Dukes of Dixieland and Symphony Pops orchestras. A key member of the Canadian Brass for nearly 30 years, Ron Romm has worked as a freelancer in New York and appeared with quite a few large ensembles. Vax and Romm first met in 1971 and have threatened to make an album together ever since. It took 46 years but the results are memorable.
Collaboration has Vax and Romm along with a fine rhythm section and a few guests (including trombonist Scott Whitfield and Tony Vacca on tenor and flute) creating music that is often dazzling. Their wide-ranging set starts with some very pretty Vax trumpet on the verse of "The Shadow Of Your Smile. The harmonies created by Vax, a muted Romm and Vacca, on flute are as beautiful as the song itself. To name a few other highlights, "Cornet Chop Suey" is given heavy parade drumming and has the trumpeters soloing freely while often quoting Louis Armstrong.
Vax opens "My Pal Vachee" like an emotional opera singer and the co-leaders perform a tasteful version of the second movement of Haydn's "Trumpet Concerto." Whitfield takes a superb solo on the Stan Kenton/Pete Rugolo piece "Collaboration," showing once again that he is one of the top trombonists in jazz today. Pianist Ioannis Goudelis does a fine job stretching out on "The Summer Knows." The closer, Nat Adderley's happy soul-jazz piece "Sweet Emma," has some particularly wild trumpet playing along with liberal use of the plunger mute.
The powerhouse trumpet playing heard throughout this project (available from www.summitrecords.com) is a consistent joy, making one hope for future Vax-Romm "collaborations."