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Test Run

Cleveland jazz combo preps for recording with live show.

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It's not unusual for a band to try a few new songs onstage before it records them. At tonight's pair of shows at Nighttown, the Bill Ransom Quintet performs what its frontman calls a final "dress rehearsal" before heading into the studio to record a new album. "It's not your average quintet, where your saxophone player plays a solo and steps back, then your trumpet player plays a solo and steps back," says Ransom, the jazz group's 42-year-old drummer. "The rhythm section puts a lot of fire behind the solos. Even the ballads we play are very passionate."

Ransom grew up on Cleveland's East Side, where he graduated from Cleveland Heights High School. He has toured with fellow Clevelander Gerald Levert, L.A. songstress Beth Hart, and ex-Supreme Mary Wilson. Last November, his group released its debut album, Generations. It included covers of Pat Metheny's "John McKee" and Tony Williams' "Sister Cheryl." "They're off the beaten path of what you usually hear," says Ransom. "They've been around; they've just been hiding around the corner."

On Tuesday, the group joins Mulgrew Miller, a former Duke Ellington Orchestra pianist, for a 10-day studio marathon to lay down tracks for its second CD, which is slated for release in February. For Ransom, Miller's presence can only bolster the experience. "He didn't hesitate at all after I asked him to play on it, and that made me feel good," he says. "He's like a credit card that helps you out a little bit."
Sun., July 30, 7 & 8:30 p.m.

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