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Spheres of Influence « BrianLynchJazz.com


"Spheres of Influence" - Brian Lynch

Track Listing

  1. Jamaica Silver (5:46) Brian Lynch – Hollistic Music, BMI
  2. I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face (9:28) Alan J. Lerner & Frederick Loewe – Chappell & Co., Inc., ASCAP
  3. Clairevoyance (8:02) Brian Lynch – Hollistic Music, BMI
  4. You Know I Care (6:19) Duke Pearson – Gailantcy Music, BMI
  5. Lukeman (13:34) Brian Lynch – Hollistic Music, BMI
  6. Green Is Mean (5:41) Brian Lynch – Hollistic Music, BMI
  7. Palmieri’s Mood (9:46) Brian Lynch – Hollistic Music, BMI
  8. Oriental Folk Song (8:23) Wayne Shorter – Miyako Music, BMI


  • Brian Lynch – trumpet
  • Donald Harrison – alto sax, [1, 3, 5, 6, 8]
  • David Kikoski – piano
  • Essiet Okon Essiet – bass,  [1, 5, 6, 8]
  • Jeff “Tain” Watts  – drums, [1, 5, 6, 8]
  • John Benitez – bass, [2, 3, 4, 7]
  • Adam Cruz – drums, [2, 3, 4, 7]
  • Milton Cardona – congas, [2, 3, 7]

Brass Section (Tracks 2&7):

  • Tony Lujan – trumpet
  • Pete Rodriguez – trumpet
  • Conrad Herwig – trombone
  • Luis Bonilla – trombone
  • Chris Washburne – tuba

Liner Notes

“When I’m leading a band, “ says Brian Lynch, “I like to play a variety of material. I don’t want to be playing exactly the same set every night. You have to keep things fresh for yourself and your musicians, as long as they’re strong enough to thrive in that sort of situation – like the players who are on this record.”

Not idle words; the 40-year-old trumpeter is notorious for prodding the edges of form within seemingly well-traveled genres. But unless you’ve heard Lynch on Eddie Palmieri’s last three records (Palmas, Arete, and Whirlwind) or on Palmieri front-line mate Conrad Herwig’s The Latin Side of John Coltrane, or caught his recent affiliations with Sheila E and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, you might not be aware of his scope. “I think my records haven’t completely reflected my activity as a musician, “ Lynch explains, “and they’ve been more circumscribed than my actual working situations.”

On Spheres of Influence, his second offering for Sharp 9, Lynch addresses that situation with a panoramic program of music encompassing his broad range of interests.

His earlier recordings (Peer Pressure, Back Room Blues, At The Main Event on Criss-Cross; In Process on Ken; Keep Your Circle Small on Sharp 9) plus sideman dates with Art Blakey and Phil Woods document a fiery coherent improviser with a personal take on the Post-Bop trumpet tree (genus Blakus-Silverus) that leads inexorably form Clifford Brown to Lee Morgan to Freddie Hubbard to Woody Shaw with pit stops by Kenny Dorham, Blue Mitchell and Charles Tolliver, and a soupcon of Booker Little and Miles Davis. Whether limning a ballad or uncorking a searing bop line, Lynch projects a rich tone that ranges from warm to brilliant, uncoiling serpentine lines that land in the most surprising places.

Lynch has made a name for himself as a composer, too, through numerous songs that play with and stretch harmony while never losing melodic essence and rhythmic thrust. In tunesmithing he’s much influenced by former employer Horace Silver. “I look to get that clean sound that Horace’s compositions have,” he comments, “that you can play complicated or play simply on, always with something that connects to the public.” That aesthetic led Art Blakey to record Lynch originals like “Chippin’ In,” “Chandek’s Den,” “Byrdflight” and “Green Is Mean.”

The ex-Messenger remarks that of a piece like the latter, “a many-noted melody based on ‘Green Dolphin Street’ with Coltrane changes applied to it,” Blakey might say, “It reminds me of Fletcher Henderson; too many notes!” He elaborates, “Sometimes I tend to have a lot of detailed lines in my tunes, especially ones coming out of the Bebop vein.” Not a problem for the killer rhythm section of David Kikoski (piano), Essiet Okon Essiet (bass) and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (drums), who gobble up the brushfire tempo like a midnight snack, while the trumpeter and alto saxophone partner Donald ‘Duck’ Harrison inhale the catchy but challenging changes like piranhas on goldfish. That Lynch knows the virtues of melody unadorned is evident on his golden, lyric reading of the Duke Pearson ballad You Know I Care, done in on take – “It’s such a beautiful song, it doesn’t need a lot of embellishment.”

For a great melody felicitously ornamented, turn to Lynch’s presentation of I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face. The luminous, richly textured brass arrangement, a celebration of metric modulation, displays a dimension of Lynch’s craft not previously shown on record. Anchored by the deep grooves laid down by Palmieri bandmates bassist John Benitez and drummer Adam Cruz, plus master conguero Milton Cardona, Lynch builds a bold ascendent statement out of long, complex lines, biting off the notes over alternating swing and montuno passages flowing seamlessly one to the other. The bass and drums follow him with soft, timbrally nuanced interlude, resolving ingeniously into some concluding trumpet probes.

Clairevoyance, featuring Lynch and Donald Harrison with the Latin rhythm, is a more explicit homage to Horace Silver, who as much as any jazz composer incorporated a clavé feel to his swing. “It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to hear a Horace Silver band playing this tune,” Lynch notes. “It’s got the two-horn sound with strong rhythm underneath. I wrote it with John Benitez in mind a few years back; the bass has the melody and we have the counter-melody. There’s a recurring theme in the intro and in the interludes reminiscent of ‘Ecaroh’ which is a basis for a drum solo at the end, and I’ve seen drummers go crazy on it.

“I’ve worked with John and Adam as a group for a long time, and they’re my  musicians of choice to work with. Both are so versatile as players they bring a deep understanding to any of the styles they play. I think John Benitez has brought the mixing of what we call swing rhythm and Afro-Caribbean rhythm to as high a point as anyone, and I could say the same for Adam. Adam pays deep attention to shading and coloration on every track he’s on in a very natural, surehanded way. And Milton Cardona is the Rock of Gibraltar, the glue of this rhythm section.”

The second arrangement for brass, Palmieri’s Mood, an idiomatic tribute to Eddie Palmieri, “was a real effort to evoke the sweep and grandeur of Eddie’s compositions. It emulates the Latin son montuno form. We stretch out the song part to include all the solos, then we go to the montuno with the percussion solo, then I come back in for a little bit more after the brass fanfare -moña, we call those things. Then we come back in and take it home.

“Working with Eddie (and in Latin music generally) informs everything I do. On ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ we go back and forth from swing to Latin but even on the swing sections I really try to play with a rhythmic continuity and variety that a good Latin soloist would apply to the material. I want to unify my approach to handling rhythm and even phrasing rhythm. One of the great things about Eddie’s group is that the horn players, Conrad and Duck and I, always played the way we play in his band. Eddie gave us a forum to develop a distinct style of phrasing, of jazz horn playing over Latin rhythms.”

Lynch also explores the rhythms of contemporary African-American music with Essiet and Watts on Jamaica Silver and Lukeman. “I’ve played with Essiet since the early ‘80s. We went through the Jazz Messengers together, and have done a lot of other things besides, including my electric group. Essiet leads a band which explores African rhythms in jazz – very successfully, I think. He’s a rhythmic bass player in the finest and most complete sense of the word. He puts a little bit of Africa in everything he does. He has his own sound and style at this point. He and Jeff Watts work together amazingly. Tain always was a great drummer, but he’s become a master drummer now. He’s another guy who can play any kind of rhythmics style, and he plays with a lot of force, a lot of sensitivity, and a lot of attitude, which is great.”

The slick “Jamaica Silver,” reminiscent of a Horace Silver line but filtered through a reggae beat, ought to be a prime airplay candidate. Lynch comments “It’s sort of a ABCA structure, a 32-bar tune with constant melodic development until the bridge.” The roiling “Lukeman,” dedicated to an old friend’s son “is open, kind of modal, with a swing beat on the cymbal and a hip-hop kind of funk beat on the snare drums and bass drum – what Donald Harrison calls ‘Nouveau Swing.’ Jeff’s bass drum is fantastic in the way it interacts with Essiet’s bass ostinatos; it’s great to hear how they interact and develop through everyone’s solos.”

Harrison’s ebullient declamations provide one of the many joys of Spheres of Influence. “I love Donald’s tart sound and his ideas, and I love playing with him,” Lynch enthuses. “Swing inhabits the very marrow of his bones. We go back to the Mesengers, and after Art died we did some things with the Blakey tribute band. When Eddie was forming the octet, we needed someone to make the tour, and I suggested Donald. Duck’s from New Orleans, and he took to clavé…well like a duck to water. He said, ‘This is just like the shit people in New Orleans do!’ He brought it up another taste when he got in.”

The mercurial pianist David Kikoski, pianist of choice for Ray Haynes and Billy Hart, thrives with dynamic drummers. He performs on all the tracks. Lynch’s assessment: “I have a wide range of material, and needed a player who is adept at a lot of different things. David has a great harmonic sense , and he’s very fluent playing Latin music – or any style of music. He comes in, looks at the music at hand, plays the hell out of it, and interprets it. That takes big ears and a lot of experience playing; it’s the highest level, I think.”

“Eddie Palmieri and Art Blakey are Alpha and Omega to me in the way I think about jazz,” Lynch sums up. “Eddie inspired me to want to do my own thing, because thats what he does. That’s how he energizes and leads the band, and that’s hopefully part of what I’ll reveal to be my strength as I evolve. And being a Messenger is something that will never betaken away from me. I think about that sometimes when I get a little down; I can see Art sitting up there saying, “You know that ain’t right; you’ve got to go on and be a leader.’ It’s very easy to be a sideman; it’s very hard to be aleader. Now I’m at the point where I think I’m ready.”

Ted Panken

Spheres Of Influence CD cover
  • Sharp Nine (CD 1007-2)
  • Recorded on 26th & 28th June 1997
  • Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY
  • Produced by Marc Edelman and Brian Lynch