REVIEWS OF “IT’S TIME” RECORDED BY ART LILLARD’S ON TIME BAND
Review by Bill Falconer
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I suspect that you’ll enjoy It’s Time immediately. I did. Art Lillard’s music is described as “accessible”. Often that means “Easy Listening” in caps but that’s not the case here. These superb musicians don’t need to hit you over the head with their performance. They’re more subtle than that. You’ll hear something new every time you play this interesting mix of originals and standards.
Lillard is a tasty drummer who has led the innovative big band, Art Lillard’s Heavenly Band (also recorded on Summit), in the New York area since 1987. On this CD he presents his swinging “On Time Band” quartet, including bassist Marco Panascia – with a big sound and an innate sense of time, Jon Davis – a versatile and inventive pianist, and Danny Walsh – eloquent on soprano, alto and tenor. The group is rhythmic and very much together, respecting the melody as it becomes their platform for improvisation.
Lillard’s five tunes include the opening “If I Can,” a lightly-swinging ballad, and “Eleanor’s Place” which appears to be somewhere in the Caribbean. You may find yourself dancing to both! In contrast is the intensely emotional (tongue-in-cheek titled?) “Ta-Dee, Ta-Dum.” Pianist Davis contributes a hard-driving “One Up Front” which give each of the four an opportunity in that position.
Lillard and Davis share the standards charts as they interpret the works of a wide range of writers: Stevie Wonder, Ellington, Mancini, Sigmund Romberg, Frank Loesser, Mingus, Lennon/McCartney, Jule Styne and Irving Gordon. Gordon is represented by a slow and sensitive arrangement of his unforgettable “Unforgettable.” (He is also known for writing the Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First” routine!) The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” is hymnlike. Lots of intensity by Walsh on soprano with Duke’s “In a Sentimental Mood” while “If I were a Bell” provides room for pianist Davis to shine. The group’s approach to Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” is a treat. Maybe you’ve wondered how the Romburg chestnut, “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” became a jazz standard but when you hear Walsh and Davis flying high over propulsive bass and drums you’ll know. You will.
Again, there’s something new for you every time you listen to It’s Time. Enjoy!
Review by George Fendel
Copyright 2009, Jazz Society of Oregon
If you sometimes become weary of music intended to ‘stretch the boundaries,’ give these guys a try. Art Lillard leads a quartet featuring the lyrical saxophones of Danny Walsh in a program of music sure to please. Lillard and his pals take you through originals with real melody lines (remember those?) and finely honed standards. Lillard refers to his music as ‘accessible.’ I’d agree, but I’d add swinging, lyrical, listenable and well-performed.
Summit; 2009, 60:39.
Review by Ken Dryden on AllMusic web site
Drummer Art Lillard has been leading a band in New York for decades, though he was little known elsewhere until his first CD for Summit. For this release, he switches from a big band to a quartet with pianist Jon Davis, saxophonist Danny Walsh and bassist Marco Panascia, mixing originals by the band’s members with pop songs and standards. Lillard’s “If I Can” is a light-hearted, swinging opener featuring Walsh’s robust tenor. Davis’ stunning reworking of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” is set up with a brooding vamp and adds a Latin undercurrent, while Walsh switches to soprano for a delicious take of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.” Lillard and Davis jointly arranged the standard “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” stretching its possibilities far past typical charts, though “If I Were a Bell” is more conventional in its approach. Walsh sits out the breezy trio interpretation of Henry Mancini’s “Mister Lucky.” The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” has infrequently been explored in a jazz setting, but Davis’ setting of this pop ballad reveals its potential, featuring Walsh’s melancholy alto. Recommended.
Review by Dick Metcalf on Rotcodzzaj
Art Lillard’s On Time Band – IT’S TIME: Readers who have been with me for a long time know that I prefer submissions from artists who are promoting their own work… & Art’s 15-song excursion is right up there with the pros, no doubt. Tunes like Charlie Mingus’s “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” get the inspiration flowing, and originals like Art’s “If I Can” let you know that Art & his crew definitely can! He’s got quite a crew… Art on drums, Marco Panascia on acoustic bass, Jon Davis on piano & Danny Walsh playing soprano, alto & tenor sax. High-talent music like (my personal favorite) “Incognito“, another Lillard original, let you know that jazz is still alive & very, VERY well! I give Art & his pals a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Art’s website (& be sure to tell him you read about him here). Rotcod Zzaj
Review by Bill Donaldson in Cadence Magazine, April-May-June 2010
Art Lillard, even after forty years of drumming, obviously enjoys the process of setting the tempo and energizing his. Lillard did the same with his big band on the previous Summit release, Reasons to Be Thankful. Lillard’s quartet, The On Time Band, appears on his second release, It’s Time. They band performs not only a mixture of apparently carefully chosen standards like “Just in Time,” but also Lillard’s compositions, like “Peaceful Brookside,” which are equally engaging. After those decades of performances in the New York metropolitan area, Lillard finally found distribution of his music not through a New York-based label, but through the Tempe, Arizona-based Summit Records. With unforced elan, this quartet plays as if no one were listening—that is, for their own pure enjoyment. “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise” keeps rising in volume and intensity as it proceeds through numerous key changes, effervescent and uplifting. “If I Were a Bell” is even faster, though pianist Davis limns the melody over the rippling undercurrent of bass and drums before going through successive improvisational choruses. Even “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” which does feature Panascia, transmits a brighter texture than usual, including amid the Blues references. Lillard’s compositions, woven seamlessly into the more familiar fare, appear more often than not to incorporate Latin references, like “Incognito’s” rumba or “Peaceful Brookside’s” samba, although “If I Can” is animated by a straightforward four rhythm with a conventional AABA. Throughout It’s Time, Lillard’s music remains accessible, brightly interpreted and obviously a lot of fun for his group to record.