Bill Cantrall
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Bill Cantrall

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
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"Jazz Observer, Forrest Dylan Bryant"

Trombonist Bill Cantrall comes from the old school. For his debut recording
as a leader, Cantrall has written a set of original hard-bop and
post-bop tunes that replace contemporary noodling with the directness of
an earlier generation, and assembled a crack septet that knows how to treat
those grooves right.

The title track kicks off with a coolly driving theme that would have been
right at home on a Woody Shaw album in the 1970s, showing the rich
harmonies, strong sense of modernist swing and relaxed heat that typifies
the album as a whole.

But while the writing is dynamic, Cantrall himself is not a flashy player. He
tends to spin straightforward lines at a thoughtful pace, even when the band
is burning. He can pick it up, as in his bopping solo on “Tangerine,” but
Cantrall sounds most at home on the album’s slower numbers.

This polarity is further illustrated near the end of the album, where the
tune “Maker’s” is presented in two back-to-back versions, at differing
tempos. Each works, but for a different reason—the faster take for its Art
Blakey-inspired rhythmic punch, the slower for its relaxed, comfortable
horn solos.

On burners and ballads alike, the strength of this album lies in Cantrall’s
original compositions, several of which sound like lost classics. It’s that
natural freshness within the tradition that makes this highly promising
debut such a pleasing success. -

"Fred Bouchard"

Three trombone-playing leaders here afford
themselves plush settings for some pretty good
arranging and blowing.
Best of the three is Bill Cantrall’s Axiom. Cantrall
had Chicago big band experience and moved to NYC
to play with Cubarama and the Gil Evans Orchestra.
His balanced and tasteful (if a tad polite) charts
challenge the players, smartly vary three-horn blends
and gather warm energy from inspired solos by altoist
Sherman Irby (“Like I Said”) and trumpeter Ryan
Kisor (“Torrent”). Cantrall adds historical value by
choosing sublime if increasingly rare Tin Pan Alley
covers - Cole Porter’s sauntering “After You” and the
neglected Mercer/Schertzinger gem “Tangerine”, arranged
optimally and played to the hilt. - All About Jazz

"Edward Blanco"

New York-based trombonist and composer Bill
Cantrall, without an extensive recording resume,
may not be well-known, but Axiom, his debut as
leader, will change that in dramatic fashion. This
is an impressive first effort for Cantrall, who
successfully crafts a hard-swinging post bop
repertoire of exciting originals and uncommon
standards, given re-worked arrangements that
make them sound almost new.

He does this with a stellar cast of players in a septet including a four-horn
front line, producing a swinging sound referred to in the liner notes as being
“in the classic tradition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.” The music leads
off with the electric up-tempo title track, with plenty of solos from members
of the band. Pianist Rick Germanson starts it off with quick finger play on
the keys, leading to Sherman Irby's alto excursion followed by a Cantrall
phrasing; a terrific opener.
“Minor Transgression” is a bit more subdued but does bring out the
assertive horn section in unison before giving way to more solo
performances. Cantrall takes the lead on “Shanice,” delivering a gentle
performance on this soft and cushy ballad piece. Two of the high points on
this album come in the form of the sharp brisk-toned “Torrent,” and
Cantrall's soulful interpretation of Cole Porter's “After You,” featuring Stacy
Dillard's tenor voice followed by another sizzling alto solo from Irby and
eventually punctuated by the trombonist's own contribution.
Trumpeter Ryan Kisor and bassist Gerald Cannon make their mark in
convincing style with formidable solos on Cantrall's “Like I Said” and
“Halfway House” respectively. There are two renditions of “Maker's,”
delivered in different tempos and both featuring Cantrall, in high gear on the
first and in a more relaxed mode on the second. The Victor
Shertzinger/Johnny Mercer standard “Tangerine” is the session's finale and
what a closer it is. The group comes out swinging with Cantrall setting the
stage for Irby's last bit, followed by Kisor's trumpet and Dillard's cooking
tenor solo capped off with a fine run from the pianist.
This is an exceptional debut for Cantrall--frankly, not so much for his
performance, which is outstanding, but for the quality of his compositions
and the all around musicianship of the first-call players in the band that
make Axiom one of the elite recordings of the year. - All About Jazz

"Woodrow Wilkins"

In mathematics, an axiom is a proposition that is
assumed to be true without proof--used for the
sake of study. In music, it can be accepted as
truth with proof that a band with four horns,
piano, bass and drums will create an excellent
Trombonist and composer Bill Cantrall
performed in Chicago with salsa groups, big
bands and sat in with other musicians. After moving to New York, the New
Jersey native pursued a master's degree in jazz performance while
continuing to play salsa and other styles. Axiom is his debut release as a
The rhythm section warms up the title song before the horns take lead.
Ryan Kisor is out front on trumpet, but Cantrall and saxophonists Sherman
Irby and Stacy Dillard blend in. After Rick Germanson's piano solo, Irby
delivers a free-spirited solo on the alto, effectively squeaking during points
of emphasis. Cantrall then solos. Throughout, Germanson, bassist Gerald
Cannon and drummer Montez Coleman keep active in the background.
"Torrent," as the name implies, is a deluge of sound. With a dramatic
underscore, the horns are in perfect sync. The piano and bass deliver a dark
undercurrent during Dillard's tenor solo. Cantrall then steps forward before
giving way to Kisor. The trumpet is smooth and clear. Then it's all stop,
while Coleman solos, working the snare, toms and cymbals.
"Like I Said" has a swinging rhythm. The horns sing in unison on the
melody. Kisor begins a series of solos. Dillard stretches out for a good bit
before Cantrell comes in. Germanson and Cannon get their licks in, too.
From start to finish, the rhythm section is tight.
Eight of the 10 tracks are Cantrell originals. The band also covers Cole
Porter's "After You" and the Shertzinger/Mercer collaboration
"Tangerine." Each song is more than six minutes, offering lots of freedom,
and the musicians take advantage of it. Axiom lives up to its name. - All About Jazz

"Ken Micallef"

Axiom-atic! Bill Cantrall wails the old
school into the 22ndCentury: New
York's Bill Cantrall pursues old school
hard bop on his debut, Axiom. A veteran
of groups led by hard hitting Latin heads
like Miles Pena, Los Hermanos Morenos,
and the big band, Cubarama, Cantrall--a
trombonist by design--has also gigged
with the legendary Gil Evans Orchestra at
New York's Sweet Basil. But to these
ears, Axiom, particularly the title track,
recalls mid 60s Blue Note smokers like
Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, Donald
Byrd's The Cat Walk, and perhaps
something by Horace Silver. The grooves
rock and rise, everyone solos like their life
is in danger, and the group's melodic heads are uniformly sw eet and w ell executed.
Featuring New York ringers like Ryan Kisor, Sherman Irby, Stacy Dillard, Rick
Germanson, Gerald Cannon and Montez Coleman, Axiom features Cantrall's distinct
septet arrangements of seven original compositions, as w ell as tw o rew orked
standards, Cole Porter's "After You," and "Tangerine" from classic collaborators
Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger. - Yahoo Music

"George Harris"

All you need to know about trombonist/composer Bill Cantrall is the
fact that for the opening Blue Note driving title track, he doesn't
even take the first solo. Cantrall, coming in third with a big toned,
unrushed sound, doesn't want to show off his own wares; he wants you to
hear THE BAND, and it's a cooker. Drinking from the Silver/Messenger
style of running a small band, Cantrall comes up with 8 originals and
two standards that snap, crack and spark with energy. "Minor
Transgressin" has a bluesy strut, with Ryan Kisor's splashy trumpet and
Sherman Irby's wailing alto gobbling up anything in front of it like a
Pac Man. Irby's alto can also get as sweet as a honeydew, as on Cole
Porter's sensually latinized "After You." The two takes of "Maker's"
has a Jazz At The Philharmonic feel to it, with everyone stretching
out, and Stacy Dillard letting out a particularly wicked tenor solo,
along with Rick Germanson's Wynton Kelly-blue piano playing. Cantrall's
warm tenor is spotlighted with Germanson's elegant piano on "Shanice",
while the supporting rhythm of Gerald Cannon/b and Montez Coleman/dr,
are eloquent in support. A must have for hard bop fans. -

"Mark Saleski"

This composition illustrates just how much creative juice can be extracted from a simple set of chord
changes. "Torrent" has its structure introduced by Gerald Cannon's bass, laying down a simple
rising/falling motif. Like many famous modal pieces (thanks Miles & Mr. Coltrane), much of the power
derives from how the musicians draw color and shape from the existing contours. After the horns play the
head, saxophone, trombone and trumpet solos follow, each amping up the tension, egged on by Rick
Germanson's terrific comping at the piano. Particularly effective is trumpeter Ryan Kisor, especially when
the rhythm section temporarily changes up, dropping in a nice blues-walk segment. As Kisor's last notes
fall away, Montez Coleman's drum break forces extra momentum onto the head's eventual restatement.
Simple, but effective.


"Christian Carey"

The old saw that music should constantly strive to sound “new” has been
pretty well debunked in the postmodern era. Musicians crossing a wide
swath of genres have proven that one can channel a style from a past era
and find new things to say in its context without merely troping (not that
aren’t a lot of those out there who merely trope!). Still, the concept of
novelty as an inherent virtue persists in some areas of criticism. This is
particularly true in conversations about jazz, where many wounds from the
mod/trad schism of decades past have yet to heal. But among up-andcoming
jazzers, a catholicity of styles and flexibility of approaches indicates
that an increasing rapprochement.
A case in point is trombonist Bill Cantrall. A New Jerseyan who’s played on
both the Chicago and New York scenes, he’s played salsa, avant-jazz, and
collaborated with post-rockers such as Rob Mazurek and Jeff Parker; but
he’s also worked in traditional contexts. His own CD, Axiom, reflects interest
in the latter. It is an excellent septet outing that combines the trombonist’s
originals with examples from the American songbook. Joined by an
crackerjack horn section – Ryan Kisor, Sherman Irby, and Stacy Dillard –
as well as pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Gerald Cannon, and drummer
Montez Coleman, Cantrall presents material that hearkens back to hard
bop, all the while sounding freshly conceived.
There are a number elements to savor. Germanson’s harmonic choices on
the title tune are exquisite. The original “Like I Said” has a sassy refrain
with cooking charts that is guaranteed to relieve nearly anyone’s doldrums.
Another standout is a lovely rendition of Cole Porter’s “After You;” a solo by
Cantrall displays a supple, round tone while Germanson executes delicate
filigrees during his too-brief turn. But once again, it is the tutti ensemble
that wows, performing as a tight unit in this live-to-disc context. Hopefully,
Cantrall can keep the charts flowing and this band together for a long while. -

"Jakob Baekgaard"

Among the brass family, the trombone hasn't won as prominent a position in jazz as has the
trumpet. The stereotypical image of a jazz musician could, until very recently, be said to have
been that of a trumpeter in a dim-lit bar shrouded in smoke--a signature of film noir. The
trombone isn't steeped in the same kind of mythology as the trumpet, but it's nonetheless an
instrument which--with its fat, mellow sound--lends itself well to jazz.
Evidence of the instrument's qualities is given by excellent releases from
trombonists/bandleaders Bill Cantrall, Marshall Gilkes and Steve Wiest. What these three
leaders have in a common is a talent for combining the raw, swinging aspect of the instrument
with a touch of lyrical sensibility--there's a sense of trombone tradition at work that goes from
Kid Ory through Jimmy Knepper, Grachan Moncur and Bob Brookmeyer.

Bill Cantrall cut his teeth on the Chicago scene playing with such
diverse musicians as saxophonist Von Freeman and guitarist Jeff
Parker. Besides playing bop and experimental music, Cantrall has
also delved deep into salsa; he clearly knows his way around a diversity of genres. On Axiom,
he explores a program of self-penned tunes and two standards (”After You” by Cole Porter and
“Tangerine” by Victor Shertzinger and Johnny Mercer).
To help him fulfil the vision of a perfect hard bop-ensemble, Cantrall has enlisted the talents of
trumpeter Ryan Kisor, saxophonists Sherman Irby and Steve Dillard and the rhythm section of
pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Montez Coleman.
The music is packed with melodic punch and tight interplay. The ensemble takes twist and
turns on bop classics like the title track and “Torrent,” but there's also room for introspection,
as evidenced by the gently moaning “Halfway House” and the romantic “Shanice,” where the
different textures of sax, trombone and trumpet makes for a rich mosaic of musical colours. As
a composer, Cantrall avoids ornamental flash. Instead, he concentrates on making memorable
melodies where the trombone takes the lead in wonderful sheets of sound.
- All About Jazz

"Ron Netsky"

Even if Bill Cantrall were not a top-flight trombonist, his CD, "Axiom," would be among the most stellar debuts of the year.
I don't know what it is about trombonists, but in the tradition of Slide Hampton and Bob Brookmeyer, Cantrall is an
excellent composer and arranger. The tunes (all but one by Cantrall) are instant classics. In the tradition of Art Blakey's
Jazz Messengers, "Axiom," "Minor Transgression," "Like I Said" and others have catchy heads and chord structures ripe
for improvisation. And he has a way with a ballad, as evidenced by "Shanice" and the gorgeous "After You." The
comparison to Blakey does not end there; Cantrall has assembled an superb group of side-men. In addition to his own
fine solos, there are outstanding excursions by Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Sherman Irby, and Stacy Dillard on sax and Rick
Germanson on piano, while Gerald Cannon (bass) and Montez Coleman (drums) provide solid support. - Rochester City Newspaper, Rochester NY


'Axiom' (UpSwing Records)
'A Tribute to Mario Bauza' with Rudy Calzado and Cubaramo (Pimiento/Universal)
'Samba de Janeiro' (Tommy Boy Records) (Trombone solos)



Carving a niche for himself in the Jazz world, trombonist, Bill Cantrall is well rooted in the solid traditions of the music.
This New Jersey native now resides in New York where he continues to hone his craft as a regular player and composer built on years of dedicated study and paying his dues. Bill moved to Chicago to pursue two Bachelor Degrees in music and electrical engineering at Northwestern University.

After completing his studies at Northwestern University, Bill gained valuable experience performing in Chicago with various salsa groups, big bands, and sitting in with musicians including Edwin Sanchez, Von Freeman, Rob Mazurek, Jeff Parker, George Fludas, and the Sabertooth Quintet. While in Chicago, he also recorded additional solo trombone work on a remix of ‘Samba de Janeiro’ for Tommy Boy Records produced by Ralphi Rosario.

Missing his roots in the New York area, and longing to be a part of the vibrant New York City jazz scene, Bill moved to the ‘Big Apple’ to pursue his Masters Degree in Jazz Performance at Queens College all while continuing to perform with a number of salsa groups, such as Miles Pena and Los Hermanos Morenos, and recording as lead trombone with the big band, Cubarama, on ‘A Tribute to Mario Bauza’ for the Pimienta label. Later, Cantrall also enjoyed the opportunity of performing with the Gil Evans Orchestra at the Sweet Basil in New York.
During this period, Bill had the opportunity to study big band and small group writing with Sir Roland Hanna and Michael Mossman.
Cantrall’s debut release as leader, ‘Axiom’, which features Ryan Kisor, Sherman Irby, Stacy Dillard, Rick Germanson, Gerald Cannon, and Montez Coleman, was released in Summer 2008. The hard swinging album features Cantrall’s distinct septet arrangements of seven original compositions, as well as two reworked standards, Cole Porter’s ‘After You’, and‘Tangerine’ from collaborators Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger.