JAZZ VIEWS (UK) - MAY 2020
There are times when this old cynic, upon seeing yet another sax lead quartet CD thinks, OK so what’s new? However after slipping this CD into the system and hitting ‘play’ these thoughts were dispelled. Here we have the inventiveness of John Coltrane, the swagger of Dexter Gordon and the lyricism of Ben Webster and this reviewer loved it.
Rob Scheps is an Oregon born New York based performer, composer and educator who leads bands in many cities in the US and tours the world extensively. He has played and recorded with many of the great and the good in the jazz world from John Abercrombie to Clark Terry, via Gil Evans and Buddy Rich. Away from the jazz niche his credits range from Ray Charles to Mel Torme, taking in Liza Minnelli and Little Anthony and the Imperials on the way. That is some C.V.
This CD is released on the Danish Steeplechase Label, a onetime home for both Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster during their European sojourns. There are 10 tracks giving us an hour of splendid music and the liner notes written at a train station in Sweden (how romantic is that?) describe each tune as a dedication. There is one original ‘Shorter Time’ and the other tracks by Messrs Abercrombie, Tyner and Dorham amongst others. Each ‘dedication’ in the notes is a nice tribute to the composer and to Scheps’ mentors including his late Mother to whom Duke Pearson’s ballad ‘You know I care’ is dedicated.
I am a little uncertain as to whether this is Scheps’ first recording venture into the jazz world as leader, if it is not, I apologise. It is a CD that will remind this reviewer that good jazz is not dead and he should temper his cynicism, 5 stars.
Reviewed by Clive Fleckner
NYC JAZZ RECORD - DECEMBER 2019
"Rob Scheps has paid his dues over several decades since graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music in the ‘80s, playing with such diverse artists as Jaki Byard, Henry Threadgill, John Abercrombie, Clark Terry and Nancy King, in addition to leading his own groups. Primarily a tenor saxophonist, Scheps also doubles on soprano saxophone on this CD, which features his New York-based group The Core-tet: pianist Jamie Reynolds and veteran bassist Cameron Brown, though his regular drummer was unavailable and the young Jesse Simpson fills in very well.
Scheps honors a number of musicians whom he admires, starting with the late Abercrombie’s “The Flip Side”, a lively showcase for his nimble soprano. Armed with his big-toned tenor, he starts Duke Pearson’s tender ballad “You Know I Care” with a furious unaccompanied introduction, before transforming into a rhapsodic setting. The intense arrangement of McCoy Tyner’s rarely performed “Message From The Nile” makes one wonder why more artists haven’t explored his extensive catalogue of compositions. Back on soprano, Scheps gives a lot of space to Reynolds, who is no Tyner clone but puts his own stamp on the music.
The title track was written by the late saxophonist Hadley Caliman, with whom Scheps co-led a band for a time; this energetic bop vehicle with AfroCuban interludes packs quite a punch. The sole original, “Shorter Time”, is a sublime ballad and feature for the leader on soprano. The rhythm section gives him a delicate background for his spacious, playful solo. Pianist Francesca Tanksley, another artist with whom Scheps co-led a band, penned the ballad “Simple Heart”, a lush, deliberate waltz, Scheps sounding like a singer with his romantic tenor. His treatment of Kenny Dorham’s “Short Story” is a salute to tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, who appeared on the original recording, paying tribute to the late jazz master without mimicking him.
Rob Scheps is one of myriad musicians deserving of wider recognition and more frequent opportunities to record as a leader. Don’t overlook this strong session."
"Primarily a big-toned tenor saxophonist, Rob Scheps deserves wider recognition. Since he arrived in New York City in the 1980s, he has been an important contributor to many bands, in addition to leading his own groups. He is also a nimble soprano saxophonist and flautist.." HOT HOUSE JAZZ GUIDE
"One more indication of the depth of the Jazz Renaissance" NEW YORK TIMES
"Coltraneish intensity at the drop of a hat" BOSTON PHOENIX
"Rob Scheps' tenor goes from reflective to hard-edged modal to reflective again..." DOWN BEAT
"Like George Adams, his predecessor in the Evans band, Scheps has a slashing style on tenor. His long burning solo on his composition "Of Green Cheese" was one of the set's high points." THE OTTAWA CITIZEN (Canada)
"A fresh voice" JAZZ TIMES
"A tough tenor man " KANSAS CITY STAR
"[E]xemplary chops and an adventurous aesthetic." THE OREGONIAN
"Saxophonist Rob Scheps has a brawny, muscular tone and delivery on the bandstand that makes one nostalgic for jazz 's once - dangerous qualities. Not one to tread lightly, he possesses a feral sense of musicianship , a feverish jubilance for all things jazz , and a relentless swagger that is utterly infectious -- every gig is high noon. Like both Charles Mingus and Ben Webster (two famously sensitive, yet combustible players), Scheps ' take-no-prisoners approach caroms between the beautiful and the brazen and never fails to engage. We're lucky to call him our own." WILLAMETTE WEEK
"Rob Scheps is again hoarsely impressive on tenor sax (tenor and soprano simultaneously on one occasion)...Julius Hemphill burns in his lengthy guest solo, but Scheps will not be outclassed." CADENCE MAGAZINE
"New York's Bartokking Heads opened with a brilliant set of Hendrix- inspired eruptions. Rob Scheps has evolved into a monster saxman, and his rapport with guitarist Ben Sher was often stunning. This was intense, theatrical rock/jazz at times quite close to Hendrix in spirit. Why can't more fusion be this much raw fun?" BOSTON HERALD
"Rob Scheps deserves special mention." DOWN BEAT
"Rob Scheps is a brash, forceful improviser with a quirky sense of humor." BOSTON GLOBE
"They [Scheps’ band Salon Des Refuses] had my booty twitching like a Rhode Island Hooker."
THE PORTLAND MERCURY
Reviews for "Comencio":
"[H]is work is full of joy, life, and discovery - really great sounds on both the tenor and soprano sax..."
"Scheps plays with a confident approach, almost laid back and conveys thought and soul. Even on uptempo numbers, he projects an under played confidence and control..."
"Scheps and band interject modal numbers and post-bop riffing amid mournful cool-jazz, Baker-esque ballads."