The Jim Self & John Chiodini Quintet - Touch and Go
(Basset Hound Music, 2023)
The tuba is a musical punchline - except when having the right breath passed through it. Jim Self is a West Coast first-call tuba player with scores of motion picture soundtrack credits and over 20 recordings as a leader. Guitarist John Chiodini enters and narrows the conversation to four previous collaborations. On Touch and Go, the two form a quintet with trumpeter Ron Stout, bassist Ken Wild, and drummer Kendall Kay for what can be considered a good, old-fashioned West Coast jazz recording date.
This recording is characterized by elaborate and precisely considered arrangements. The recording’s title piece was composed by Self and employs a tricky 3/4-6/8 hemiola time signature. Self performs the song on a “fluba,” a tuba-sized flugelhorn invented by Self. The Fats Waller chestnut “Ain’t Misbehavin’” features a Lou Rovner arrangement in 7/8 time that cheekily quotes “Tiptoe Through The Tulips.” Ken Wild steps out with a samba treatment for J.J. Johnson’s “Lament” filled with memory and pathos.
The Kevin Tullius composed “Suzanne” was suggested as a duet for Self and Chiodini. The leaders produce an ethereal ambiance where the tuba provides a wall-to-wall sonic cushion for Chiodini’s delicate guitar playing while the guitarist provides Self some edges from which to hang his broad melodic tone. The quintet having demonstrated their command of alchemically arranged music delightfully shows they can swing at full speed on a sprite cover of Miles Davis’s “Dig.”
This recording is reminiscent of The Music of Cy Touff, a West Coast musician specializing in an odd instrument, the bass Trumpet. His Cy Touff, His Octet & Quintet (Pacific Jazz, 1955) bore the same carefully arranged pieces created to accommodate the broad and expansive tone of this instrument. While impressive, Touff’s performances came off as forced and stiff. Self and Chiodini manage to avoid these pitfalls, making Touch and Go a creative success.