Review by Peter Karoly

I am going to give the Scott Tuttle Quartet the same advice I gave my wife after we had been married for a number of years: You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

The Scott Tuttle is a jazz clarinetist and, as most everyone who has listened to music for any length of time knows, you can count the really great jazz clarinetists on one hand if you have a couple of fingers missing. That being said, there is always room for a couple more and I, for one, am glad that Scott Tuttle is giving it a go.

I usually don’t spend too much time looking up biographies of musicians because I like to let the music speak for itself before I prejudice myself with additional information. The quartet was formed only a few years ago, but the members are seasoned local musicians and have spent about a combined century honing their skills. Tuttle has been playing clarinet for 17 years and has performed with honors bands at the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, and Saginaw Valley State University. Drummer Dave Reed, a 31-year teaching veteran in Birch Run, has been playing in jazz and dance groups for over 40 years. Pianist Mike Gray is a 20-year keyboard performer and is currently studying music at SVSU. Bassist Eric Markley learned piano at three and has not slowed down.

Now let’s go on to the music. When we speak of great clarinetists, Benny Goodman naturally goes to the head of the class. The Scott Tuttle Quartet acknowledges that by opening the unnamed disc, acquired after the group played a gig in Saginaw, with "Honeysuckle Rose." The disc then continues with "Killer Joe," "All Blues," "Georgia On My Mind," "Maiden Voyage/Cantaloupe Island," "Jumpin’ at the Woodside," "Blue Bossa" and "Cotton Tail." A very nice selection and very well done. My tastes in jazz are fairly eclectic, but I must admit that I don’t always get it. I have struggled with much of Miles Davis and plenty of John Coltrane, but I chalk that up to being my problem and not theirs. Enough people admit their genius, so who am I to argue?

The Scott Tuttle Quartet’s style of jazz is the kind that I really enjoy. I can listen closely or not pay attention at all, get up and dance or read a book. It fits my moods (that would be a good album title!) and maybe that’s what is so interesting about jazz.. While the recorded notes don’t change, they do depending on how the listener interprets them at any given moment. Wow. That’s either so profound I am starting to sound intelligent, or so goofy I should quit while I’m ahead. I will choose the latter.

The disc is a little less than an hour long but can be played on repeat, well, repeatedly. It is the kind of music that you can concentrate on or use as background noise. When I concentrate on it, I can find something different about it each time I listen. It is, after all, jazz..

Much, if not all, of this disc is recorded live at venues that sound like small clubs to concert halls. The small clubs are so small, in fact, that you can hear conversations going on at the tables, and I found myself eavesdropping to see what they were talking about. The background conversations don't detract from the music, however. I think they add something. Jazz is a distinctly American form of music and belongs to each and every one of us. The events of our lives don't always follow predictable patterns, and I think jazz can represent the music of our lives. It would be nice if the events of my life were as sweet as Scott Tuttle's music.

The Scott Tuttle Quartet is scheduled to make a couple of appearances at the Magic Bean in Saginaw in both November and December, along with a New Year's Eve performance in Birch Run. That is a busy time of year, but I think it also the perfect time of year to kick back and relax with these guys. Really, what could be better than ringing out the old year and ringing in the new with the sounds of the Scott Tuttle Quartet? That might end up being about the best gift you could get for the holidays.

To find out more about the group, visit the official website or myspace .

© Pete Karoly, 2010