From Dee Dee McNeil: Musical Memoirs Blog (2021514):
HENRY “SKIPPER” FRANKLIN – “SHOWERS of BLESSINGS” – Skipper Productions
(Published: May 14, 2021) By Dee Dee McNeil
Henry Franklin, bass/composer; Theo Saunders, piano/composer; Willie Jones, drums; Teodross Avery, tenor & soprano saxophone; Ryan Porter, trombone; Nolan Shaheed, trumpet/fugal horn; Benn Clatworthy, alto flute/composer; Najite Agindotan, percussion; Yaakov Levy, wooden flute.
When I see the name Henry ‘Skipper’ Franklin in the credits of any given music, I know the jazz will be quality and the product will be noteworthy. “Showers of Blessings,” The Skipper’s latest CD release, is no exception. The project opens with his whispered and percussive “Message to Marjorie” for a brief introductory 57 seconds. It’s a prayerful nod to his late cousin. The talented Najite Agindotan sparkles on percussion and Yaakov Levy introduces us to his illustrious wooden flute. This is followed by Theo Saunder’s composition, “The Return of The Skipper.” It’s a happy-go-lucky tune that dances across the space with a catchy melody and blues chord changes that invite improvisational solos of merit. For example, Teodross Avery, on tenor saxophone, grabs the spotlight and our immediate attention with his tone and presence. Ryan Porter’s trombone solo parts the curtains and marches stage front, followed by Nolan Shaheed’s innovative trumpet solo.
On this recording, Henry Franklin fattens his trio sound with beautiful horn arrangements played by some of the best Southern California musicians available. Theo Saunders lends his composer skills to the project, as well as his whimsical innovation on piano. On McCoy Tyner’s pretty “Ballad for Aisha” you can appreciate the outstanding, intricate horn harmonics, arranged by reedman, Benn Clatworthy. Franklin and his sextet give a respectful nod to the legendary McCoy Tyner, who sadly passed away in March of 2020.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Skipper (as we fondly refer to Henry Franklin) decided to record a project of music to celebrate events and people who have greatly impacted his life. Not only did our country lose over half a million souls to the virus, we also faced a ‘Black Lives Matter’ moment, when several people of color, both brown and black, died at the hands of America’s city police. Theo Saunders penned a composition to memorialize “Black Lives Lost.” It features a heartfelt trumpet solo by Nolan Shaheed, whose popular recording studio was also the birthplace of this intimate album of music. I enjoyed hearing Clatworthy pick up his alto flute and colorfully incorporate it into “The Valley of Search” arrangement. Clatworthy always brings his best to every project and usually is playing saxophone. This is a wonderful example of his woodwind diversity. Henry Franklin takes a solo that digs deeply into the valley of his bass tones, displaying adroitness of his instrument and displaying why he is celebrated as a bass master. One of my favorites on this album is the Clatworthy composition, “Skipper Meets Pharoah” in celebration of two mighty musicians and their friendship over many memorable years. The saxophone of Teodross Avery dances atop Franklins powerful, walking bass line and the always exciting Willie Jones III spurs the sextet straight-ahead on drums. His trap drum solo shows us why he is an innovative, in-demand drummer both on sessions and on stage. Another favorite of mine is “The Guardian” with its throwback theme and arrangement that reminds me of my teenage years and 1960 jazz, watching Art Blakey’s group in a smoke-filled coffee house called “The Minor Key” in Detroit. The closing tune is a Franklin composition titled, “Little Miss Laurie.” It’s a Latin-flavored ending to a dynamic album of music. With a cha-cha groove, Henry Franklin’s composition sprays joy from my CD player.
This is just good, solid jazz from top to bottom; beginning to end. You will want to slide this CD back into your player and listen to it time after time
From Jazz Weekly:
TIMELESS TONES…Henry “Skipper” Franklin: Showers of Blessings
(Published: June 07, 2021)
By George W. Harris
At 80 years young, bassist Henry “Skipper” Franklin is one of LA’s historical jazz figures. And, best of all, he’s still playing and sounding great, as this recent album with like minded all stars will attest. He mixes and matches his core team of Theo Saunders/p and Willie Jones III/dr with Yaokov Levy/fl, Najite Agindotan/perc, Benn Clatworthy/fl, Ryan Porter/tb, Nolan Shaheed/tp-fh and Teodross Avery/ts-ss on this collection of timeless gems.
Tropical flute flavors and percussion start things off on the tasty “Message to Marjorie” before The Skipper shifts into Comfort Food mode along with Avery on the leader’s blues shuffle “The Return of the Skipper” while Porter follows the leader’s lead on the hard driving modal “Coconut Island.” Clatworthy is misty on “Valley of Search” and the horn front line is shiny and sleek glides along on “Ballad for Aisha.” The sparks fly with some exciting tenor work on Benn Clatworthy’s “Skipper Meets Pharoah” and sweet soprano sounds along with Shaheed’s rich horn make you beg for more by the time the album closes with “Little Miss Laurie.” They make it sound so easy; so why can’t anyone else do it like this?