Gary Bartz

Challenge

While much of the jazz world was embroiled in the stylistic wars of the last decade, frightfully talented players and composers like saxophonist Gary Bartz quietly made their way to the throne room. Bartz is capable of both spirited interpretations of jazz classics and memorable efforts like his latest, Episode One: Children of Harlem, a musical tour of the neighborhood where he grew up. Thankfully, Harlem is free of the aural jingoism that often mars such autobiographical projects. The disc is evocative of the neighborhood’s past and present, and includes swinging renditions of Ervin Drake’s Latin-flavored “Tico Tico” as well as a tender, poignant reading of the theme from TV’s Amos ‘n’ Andy. In addition to Bartz’s dazzling technical prowess, the collection is graced with the considerable gifts of pianist Larry Willis, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Ben Riley.