Keith Oxman – Quotes & Reviews

Dues in Progress

Denver saxophonist and bandleader Keith Oxman has released six albums on the Colorado-based Capri label since 1996, most recently Dues In Progress, a combination of six originals and six standards or jazz standards. Oxman has worked with a number of prominent jazz bandleaders including Art Blakey, Max Roach, Sonny Stitt and the Buddy Rich Big Band. The latter group best represents Oxman’s current musical preference and arranging skills. Oxman is joined by renowned trombonist Curtis Fuller, who also contributes one original, plus Alan Hood (trumpet), Peter Cooper (oboe), Chip Stephens (piano), Ken Walker (bass) and Todd Reid (drums). Marcus Hampton guests on trumpet on his original, “C.H.O.C.” Beginning with the Fragos/Baker/Gasparre standard, “I Hear A Rhapsody,” which features a nifty Fuller solo, Oxman mixes standards with originals. His composition “Anna Kate,” at medium tempo, succeeds as both an attractive tune and a good opportunity to hear Oxman and pianist Stephens play. “Cap ‘N Kidd,” a Curtis Fuller original, brings an infectious Caribbean vibe (think “St.Thomas”) and a toe-tapping, finger-popping feel to the album. On “Two And Fro,” another original, Oxman plays hard in a post-Coltrane mode and edges closer toward taking the music out a bit more. Joe Henderson’s “Serenity,” given a relaxed reading, provides an opportunity for Oxman to slowly build to a heated solo; “Two Wheelin’ Nathan” is a melodic blues with a reference to the era of soul-jazz of the 1960s; and the closing “Thirty One For Strayhorn” is a reflective ballad. On other tracks, Oxman does a fine job of representing the standard ballads. “Darn That Dream” is a feature for oboist Peter Cooper, and “The Masquerade Is Over” provides a tenor sax stint for Oxman. The liner notes are by none other than Benny Golson, who makes some cogent observations about the players and tunes. Reviewed by, Michael P. Gladstone, (April 28, 2006)
Listening to music can be a pleasant experience, and Keith Oxman serves up just the right recipe on Dues In Progress, his sixth album. Trombonist Curtis Fuller contributes one track, the happy, snappy, Latin zinger “Cap’n Kidd,” and the other members of the band chip in with some fine performances. At the end of it all, the listener can breathe a sigh of high satisfaction. Oxman, who wrote six of the tunes, leans towards bop, but he also throws in a bit of funk and knows how to swing. His tone on the tenor breathes a warm, coaxing fire that he moulds into each composition with flair and imagination. Oxman uses various combinations to get the music across. He goes “Two and Fro with drummer Todd Reid, who gives shim, supple support as he weaves a maze of bop lines that curl and holler and cut a hard-as-nails groove. “Anna Kate, another Oxman composition, sets the pulse on swing. Oxman documents the approach with a lithe gait, taking an aside to break the lines as Al Hood comes in. Hood plays with a crisp intonation, his notes sharp yet tensile. But then pianist Chip Stephens wafts in with a sunny disposition that nevertheless complements what has passed, completing an enticing picture. Joe Henderson’s “Serenity has a bop edge, Oxman shaping the head before Stephens takes it on a tangent with a welter of improvised notes that move into melody land. Oxman rides the bop circuit, investing it with a host of ideas. The group wraps the session up with the liquid, luminous “Thirty One for Strayhorn, a ballad that flows with underlying passion and strong, palpable emotion—quite the right closer for this record. Reviewed by, Jerry D’Souza, (April 17, 2006)
Keith Oxman’s straight-ahead sextet interprets this program of standards and original compositions with a veteran’s touch. Trumpeter Marcus Hampton sits in for “C.H.O.C., oboist Peter Cooper for “Darn That Dream. With his cohesive ensemble in sync, the tenor saxophonist delivers a clear message. Keith Oxman is from Denver. His thirty years’ experience in the jazz world includes an extensive stint with the Buddy Rich Big Band. His Dues in Progress reflects the same kind of soulful swing that Rich championed. Oxman’s tenor leaps out in front of his ensemble, taking off with hard rips and free-flowing spurts that coalesce with the actions of his musical partners. Everyone works together seamlessly and cohesively, still taking advantage of plenty of solo opportunities. Oxman interprets Joe Henderson’s “Serenity” with a quartet, allying himself with the group’s straight-ahead coolness. His casual tenor rollicks with the song’s playful appearance, while pianist Chip Stephens applies dramatic undercurrents. Oxman’s duo interpretation of “Thirty-One for Strayhorn” works with tender piano accompaniment, which slows with meaningful dialogue. The piece represents an artist’s view of hearts on fire. “Two and Fro” is a brief, up-tempo tenor/drum duet where notes and accents fly in all directions. Romps such as “Anna Kate,” “Cap’n Kidd” and “Two Wheelin’ Nathan” find the sextet reveling in a standard straight-ahead format that keeps the fires burning. For most of the session, however, those fires are maintained at low heat, keeping a constant vigil on the ensemble aspect of Oxman’s program and ensuring that all points are connected properly. Stephens’ piano and the leader’s tenor provide the hottest soloing, and the shifting ensembles surround each profile with counterpoint that tucks the music into a suitable envelope of jazz history. Reviewed by, Jim Santella, (March 31, 2006)
When a CD arrives that is seventy two minutes long, as a reviewer, I can be a little apprehensive. I have to listen to the whole thing before I can say anything and that’s more than an hour invested. So it helps if the CD has praise from someone like Benny Golson on the back of the jewel case. This was the case when I received Dues in Progress by Keith Oxman, released in 2006 ontThe CAPRI Records label. Benny Golson said, “I’m quite impressed since I constantly hear music of all kinds. Dues in Progress is a great CD which speaks in a stentorian voice which is unmistakable. The music is a bit different which makes it readily stand out. It makes for a wonderful listening experience.” You can’t buy that kind of review. So when I put the CD on for a spin and listen I expected something of a treat. It was like my birthday used to be when I was a kid. Wait for the gift LP with bated breath; put it on; have a near out of body experience; and play it until the grooves were gone. This album cooks from the opening line of “I Hear a Rhapsody” until the final chord of “Thirty One for Strayhorn,” which by the way, is one of the six original compositions Mr. Oxman wrote for this CD. Dues in Progress has twelve tracks which means that six of the songs are by other composers but the arrangements make them all brand new. I have played the album from beginning to end six times already and I haven’t found anything to criticize about any aspect of the program. In fact I keep hearing new and exciting things that I missed in earlier listenings. In addition to their duties on trombone and trumpet, respectively, Curtis Fuller and Marcus Hampton each contributed an original tune. Mr. Fuller’s “Cap’N Kid” is a jazzy piece of calypso that begs you to get up and dance. Marcus Hampton contributes “C.H.O.C.,” which is a quintessential groove tune, listen to it and you will see what I mean. Naturally the album soars because of the performances by the musicians who include, in addition to Keith Oxman on saxophone, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass, Todd Reid on drums, Peter Cooper on oboe, Al Hood on trumpet, and Marcus Hampton on trumpet. While these may not be names that are familiar to all music lovers, once heard they will be sought out. Each one is a master musician and a brilliant ensemble player. The solos show how good each of these guys is and the ensemble work is flawless. One player who I have found revealing more with each listen is Chip Stephens whose piano playing is nuanced, tasty and inspiring. He is a master at comping and that is the glue that holds performances together. A special treat is that Benny Golson wrote the liner notes. In his notes he explains this album exactly as I would, if I had his talent, experience, ear for music, knowledge of technique, and deep insight into creating aural artistry. So rather than try to do what he has done magnificently I recommend that as soon as you buy this “absolute must have CD” you read what Benny Golson wrote. It will add to your listening experience which should be a pure joy. Reviewed by, Gerard W. O’Brien, (January 24, 2006)
On his seventh release for Capri, it is immediately apparent that Keith Oxman’s abilities as a writer make him a force to be reckoned with. The tenor saxophonist makes his small group sound like a much larger band in his creative arrangement of the standard “I Hear a Rhapsody,” showcasing veteran trombonist Curtis Fuller, trumpeter Al Hood, and pianist Chip Stephens, in addition to himself. Fuller’s “Cap’n Kid” is cast as a playful calypso with Todd Reid’s tom-toms and Stephens’ Latin groove providing plenty of fuel for the soloists. Oxman really demonstrates how far he’s willing to push the envelope by adding Peter Cooper’s oboe as the initial lead voice in a warm quintet setting of “Darn That Dream.” The leader also contributed several thoughtful originals to the date, including the sassy, very hip “Anna Kate” and the challenging blues “Two Wheelin’ Nathan,” in which Fuller takes top solo honors. This enjoyable CD is warmly recommended to hard bop fans. Reviewed by, Ken Dryden, (2006)
If anyone still needs convincing that outstanding jazz players live and work in places other than on the East and West Coasts, they should check out Denver-based Keith Oxman’s latest recording. The tenorist’s sixth album for Colorado’s Capri label features superb players, mostly from Denver and elsewhere in the state, who can hold their own with anyone anywhere. The leader himself is an excellent improviser, with a fine sound, agile technique and sure harmonic sense. He also exhibits a thorough knowledge of the hard bop language and can swing like crazy. Plus he’s an imaginative composer and arranger, having written six of the album’s 12 tunes and arranged another. Pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid lay down solid time and interact with the horn soloists in a sensitive, supportive manner. Those soloists include veteran trombonist Curtis Fuller and trumpeter Al Hood as well as, on one tune, trumpeter Marcus Hampton. Pianist Stephens himself proves to be one of the most exciting soloists of the session. He’s also responsible for one of the CD’s many innovative arrangements, a poignant version of “Darn That Dream” that features the principal oboist with the Colorado Symphony, Peter Cooper. Reviewed by, David Franklin, (September 2006)

Out on a Whim

This disc is the Colorado-based Oxman’s third for Capri. His program consists of five of his own originals, as well as two apiece by Weyl and Whited, one by White, and three standards. After my 9/96 review of his A Little Taste, which described him as a bebop-rooted tenor player, I was surprised to learn from someone who has heard him live that Oxman is strongly touched by Coltrane. Although it may be due to the power of suggestion, I do now hear occasional traces of Coltrane in Oxman, in his vertical/harmonic phrasing on “Annette,” “Shin Hachibai” and “Loominus,” for example, and perhaps in his general ballad sensibility on “Glenwood Summer” and “The Tree Has Fallen.” Nonetheless, performances like “Strike Up The Band,” and “Red Alert,” as well as the setting for the other tunes show this music to be rooted, as before, in 1950s-1960s modern Jazz. It seems more accurate to link Oxman to Sonny Stitt than Coltrane. Oxman’s originals are straight ahead, but not all tied to AABA forms. Weyl and Diamond return from the earlier date, and trumpeter White is on several tracks, but Oxman is the main point of interest. He is a solid changes-based player who brings freshness to his solos, and if you like music like that, you will probably like him. Reviewed by, Dale Smoak, (June 1998)

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