Russ Kassoff: Bird Fly By (2010)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Bird Fly By opens, appropriately enough, with Russ Kassoff's unaccompanied piano establishing an easygoing vibe on Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson's flapper-era standard, "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby." He's soon joined by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel for a groovy romp that's all but certain to leave the listener smiling. Listening to that prefatory number is all that's needed to understand that Kassoff clearly loves what he is doingand that he does it remarkably well.
Kassoff's musical philosophy could well be summed up in a word, "Joy," which coincidentally is the title of special guest Adam Niewood's sunny composition, on which the composer's eloquent tenor saxophone reinforces the trio. Kassoff's half-dozen originals includes the plaintive "Elegy, Part 1Suite for Gerry," dedicated to Niewood's father, a superb woodwind player who died in a plane crash in February 2009. The younger Niewood reappears on that tune, this time on soprano sax, to carry the ball most of the way. Kassoff also wrote "Bird Fly By," "A Breath of Spring," "One Minute More," "As Life Disappears" and "Every Day I'm in Love with You," each of which underscores his impressive talents as a composer.
Standards not already noted include Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Edelweiss," Lerner and Loewe's "The Heather on the Hill," Howard Dietz / Arthur Schwartz's too-seldom-heard "New Sun in the Sky" (complete with zestful boogie woogie licks) and Mort Dixon / Harry Woods' "River Stay 'Way from My Door." Jerome Richardson wrote the suitably named "The Groove Merchant," and Buffy Sainte-Marie the lyrical "Until It's Time for You to Go." Kassoff plays each one with equal parts warmth and intelligence, while his quick-handed colleagues, Mackrel (the new director of the Count Basie Orchestra) and Anderson, lend perceptive and unflagging support.
A delightful album by a pianist (and trio) who should be more widely known and appreciated.
Track Listing: Yes, Sir, That's My Baby; Bird Fly By; Edleweiss; Joy; As Life Disappears; The Groove Merchant; The Heather on the Hill; A Breath of Spring; One Minute More; Every Day I'm in Love with You; River Stay 'Way from My Door; New Sun in the Sky; Until It's Time for You to Go; Elegy, Part 1--Suite for Gerry.
Personnel: Russ Kassoff: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums; Adam Niewood: soprano saxophone (4), tenor saxophone (14).
Record Label: RHK Jazz