It felt like a drug deal going down. We walked behind the stage, away from the throng of jazz fans, and stepped into a makeshift trailer. It was then and there that Billy Novick pulled out a black attache case and produced the goods.
It was a lazy sun-splashed Sunday afternoon and Novick had just finished a rousing performance at the first annual Portsmouth Jazz Festival in Prescott Park beside the Piscataqua River. When a fan asked him if he had any CDs for sale, Novick whispered "Follow me.''
So there we were minutes later, standing in the trailer fumbling for cash as Novick showed us his stash. There were four CDs from which to choose. Not certain which might be the best but knowing it might be difficult to find them elsewhere, we bought one of each. There was "Remembering You'', "Swing So Softly'', "Guy and Billy'' (with Guy Van Duser), and a CD that over the years has become one the favorites in my jazz collection: "This Is Always.''
Novick, a terrific reed player who's a fixture on the New England jazz scene, teamed up with longtime Berklee instructor Herb Pomeroy to produce an amazing collection of eight rich instrumental ballads. Pomeroy lends his mastery on the trumpet and flugelhorn in a perfect meshing with Novick's clarinet and alto sax.
It's not always easy to tell who's playing which instrument, and it doesn't really matter. "This Is Always'' is sublime, seductive and spiritually reviving. It's music that can make a bad day good and a good day memorable. You don't have to be sipping a single malt, but if you happen to have a glass in your hand, well, it will never taste better.
I was surprised to see this little-known gem from 1996 available on CD Baby. You can read a review, check out samples and order it by clicking here.
I'd be surprised if the latest Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout (PSSST) didn't become one of your favorites as well.