There’s something good happening in the Chicago music scene, where younger players like Marquis Hill, Makaya McCraven, and Matt Ulery have made strong statements recently. Add sax player Corbin Andrick’s name to that list, as his recent Olmstead’s Whistle release signals this musician and this band as one to watch.
The band on Olmstead’s Whistle includes Andrick on sax along with Marquis Hill on trumpet, Daniel Bruce on guitar, Andrew Green on drums, Juan Pastor on percussion, Katie Ernst on bass, and Brad MacDonald on piano and Rhodes, plus Paul Mutzabaugh featured on organ for “Sidewalks of Southport”. The band is at its best when riding a mid- to up-tempo groove with solid drums, percussion, and bass, and thankfully most of the ten tracks here do just that.
A highlight of the album is the second song, “Night Owls”, which opens with catchy solo guitar that suggests a moody, Radiohead-ish tune is coming up. Once the drums come in double-time, though, the tune takes off in a different direction with an effective head. Coming out of the head, the band moves through a guitar and trumpet solo before the band returns to the guitar line from the opening and then takes it out. (The live version below has a similar arrangement to the version on the album, but also has some strings that aren’t on the album version – both are recommended listening.)
“Night Owls (Live)”
The solos on the album are spread more or less evenly among Andrick’s sax, Marquis Hill’s trumpet, and Daniel Bruce’s guitar, with the other musicians putting in fine improvisations when given an opening. On “Night Owls” and throughout Olmstead’s Whistle, though, the strength of the music comes not from the individual players’ solos, but from the compositions, arrangements, and the sound that the full band achieves. That’s not to take anything away from these musicians, all of whom put together solid solos throughout and sound great, but Andrick’s compositions show his interest not only in jazz but also in funk and rock where the emphasis is on the groove more than individual virtuosity. The rhythm section of Andrew Green, Juan Pastor, and Katie Ernst hold down these tunes admirably. A great example of this is “Sidewalks of Southport”, featuring Paul Mutzabaugh’s organ along with the core band from the rest of the album and a super-strong performance from the rhythm section to provide a foundation for the tune’s solos on this funk-influenced track.
Olmstead’s Whistle is one of the most enjoyable listens I’ve come across recently thanks to the tight arrangements and to the overall group sound that is much more than the sum of its parts. Corbin Andrick and the band here is well worth keeping an ear out for.