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While the Jazz WORMS quintet breaks no stylistic ground on Squirmin’, it does evince a characteristic that’s rare and appreciated in jazz these days: a persistent sense of uplift over the course of eight lively originals. Calling it feel-good jazz doesn’t diminish the music’s seriousness. And it hardly needs saying that an album like this is a tonic for the times we live in.
Much of Squirmin’ bears the mark of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Each track features a lead melody that’s concise and catchy, and doesn’t trip over an excess of self-conscious complexity. The music swings — most of the time literally — with verve and drive. The solos are buoyant and often blazing, and everyone gets plenty of turns.
Before you go rolling your eyes at the name Jazz WORMS, know that it’s an acronym of the five members’ names and was coined in 1984. (Okay, feel free to roll your eyes now.) Back then, pianist Any Weyl, saxophonist Keith Oxman, drummer Paul Romaine, cornetist Ron Miles and bassist Mark Simon were young dudes trying to establish a reputation on the then-hoppin’ Denver jazz scene.
They released their first album, Crawling Out, in 1987. The quintet didn’t last long because each member went on to carve out an estimable career on the wider jazz scene — especially Miles, who records for Blue Note as a leader. The Jazz WORMS performed sporadically over the years, and recorded a live set at a Denver club in 2014 that was never released.
That didn’t kill the idea of a reunion album, though, and over two days in November 2017 they cut Squirmin’ in a Denver studio. Who knows if and when Jazz WORMS will record again, but if it happens, they’ll have to use the same personnel — if for no reason than to stand by their goofy moniker.
Photo by Todd Reid