Local trumpeter Alex Toth is one of the most visible young players in the Queen City's vibrant jazz community. From his weekly sets at Burlington's Radio Bean to side projects and jam sessions, Toth is, in a word, industrious. The latest example of his big-league work ethic is Vermont Sky Session, a disc he cut with his primary collaborators, the Lazybirds.
Recorded in a no-frills session at Vermont Sky Digital Audio in Barnet, the disc features six classics reinterpreted by Toth and his cronies. Refreshingly, the band sticks to jazz elementals -- there's nary a jam-band detour or funk interlude to be found.
Toth may get top billing, but he never grandstands. Both he and his band focus more on communal expression than individual pyrotechnics. That's not to say there aren't juicy solos; each player is given several opportunities to thunder above the herd.
Wayne Shorter's elegantly complex "The Big Push" kicks things off. It's a challenging piece, but the Lazybirds tackle the tune's protracted harmonies and start-stop rhythms with soulful surety.
Saxophonist and singer Annakalmia Traver takes an impassioned vocal turn on the Charlie Mingus warhorse, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat." Her low-toned croon is met by Toth's muted trumpet, which wraps around her melody like a cozy scarf. Pianist Peter Krag melds with the song's understated chord progression, gracefully surging and receding.
Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Triste" is an excursion into the exotic world of bossa. Here, Toth serves up a whirlwind solo as the band bobs above drummer Dan Ryan's rugged rimshots. The pace picks up further with "Have You Met Miss Jones," in which Traver and Toth exchange several classy, brassy bursts.
Traver puts her own lyrical spin on the Sonny Rollins-penned "Sonnymoon for Two." A sultry blues number, the song provides a chance for the band to explore its sensual side. In fact, Toth's steamy trumpet would sound at home in the red-light district of a film noir metropolis.
The album wraps up with "I Hear a Rhapsody," which was recorded live at Radio Bean in February. While the sound quality isn't as pristine as the studio cuts, the tune further showcases the group's ample chemistry.
My only complaint about Vermont Sky Session is that there aren't any original compositions. Toth is a fine player, and he's assembled a remarkably fluid ensemble. Still, it would be nice to hear what else is kicking around in that musical mind of his. Perhaps he'll provide a few more hints on Saturday, April 29 at Burlington's Red Square.