Tony Lustig, Taking Flight To A Strong Start

by Jon Ward

One of the many rewards in reviewing CDs is making new discoveries, and in this case, that discovery is baritone sax player Tony Lustig. Lustig’s debut album, Taking Flight, is an energetic and very musical offering, full of promise for the young player that has a wonderful sound and a command of the horn that will astonish. The players on the CD include: Mike Dease (trombone), Samora Pinderhughes (piano), Ben Williams (bass), and Ulysses Owens (drums).

All eight tracks are composed by Lustig. The CD starts with a medium tempo swinger titled “Change is Comin,” which sets a nice tone for the rest of the project. “Fraytown,” a mid-tempo gospel-tinged six eight number nicely showcases Williams’ interactive basslines and Pinderhughes ivory work, with Lustig delivering and excellent heart-felt solo. Taking Flight is very much an entire-group effort, and the playing reflects that and no better than on the track “Prometheus.” This up-tempo selection is given an outstanding rhythmic bed by Owens and a full foundation by Williams.  Pinderhughes comping is supportive and pushes Lustig and Dease in all the right places.  Lustig’s solo is a technical workout, but he never loses his melodic flow and his deep sense of time.  Dease never, never ceases to amaze and although Lustig is new to my ears, I am very familiar with Dease’s playing, and this is a fine example of his fiery passion on the bone.  The first ballad on the CD is “For Wayne,” a very beautiful melody indeed, and Lustig’s upper register work is gorgeous. The title track is a straight-eight selection that is energetic and uplifting, Lustig and Owens really converse on this selection. “Serving it Up” finds the group on their good foot with a funky/gospel inspired selection that will bring to mind the classic, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” The track “On the Wings of Icarus” finds the musicians taking their time and allowing each phrase to really speak and breath. We feel it too! The project ends with the medium-up blues swinger, “Burnin’ Grease” and that is what everyone does on this selection.  Amazing feel and excellent overall sound, the group truly connects.

This may be a debut offering, but it shows no signs of the “green” factor, each player stands alone in their own right as a seasoned asset, but together they elevate this project to a memorable offering, one that surely should be a valued space in any jazz collection.  Tony Lustig, remember this name – I see great things on his horizon.  Searing lines, a robust sound, and rhythm to spare. These are the signs of greatness and Lustig is off to a shining start.

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