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Howard Roberts: Good Pickin's (2007)

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Howard Roberts: Good Pickin's How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Whatever you may think of guitarist Howard Roberts, Good Pickin's will likely change your mind. Prior to this release, most knowledgeable listeners would probably associate Roberts with his studio work in popular music and easy listening jazz. Good Pickin's will change that perspective forever. On this reissued 1959 session, Roberts plays straight-ahead jazz at a level that suggests that had he made different choices, he could have been known as one of the great jazz guitarists of his day.

This music is set in the West Coast jazz world of tight arrangements and incisive solos. This is ensemble jazz, and Roberts proves to be a master. Bill Holman and Marty Paich are responsible for the arrangements, making this an unusually intricate and well-planned guitar recording. The wonderful thing about the session is that it caught this band on an inspired day. The rhythm section of Red Mitchell and Stan Levey is superb, providing a drive and snap to the music that ably supports the primary soloists: Bill Holman (saxophone), Pete Jolly (piano) and Roberts (guitar).

Unison sax and guitar lines intertwine with Jolly's piano accompaniment in a complex exchange that is consistently intriguing. Jolly's piano work is a lesson for all; each track displays his subtlety and intelligence in support of others, while his concisely developed solos arise out of a style that is uniquely delicate and bold. This is as good as Holman has ever sounded to this reviewer, but the star of the show is undoubtedly Howard Roberts.

Good Pickin's presents strikingly sophisticated guitar work played with a fine-honed intensity. With these sleek arrangements and this inspired band, Roberts rises to the occasion, demonstrating his mastery of a wide range of jazz styles and tempos; ultimately it is his feel for the music that is brought home track after track. This guitar master may be more widely known for his other musical accomplishments, but fortunately Good Pickin's documents him with a hot band, playing mainstream jazz. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Will You Be Mine; When the Sun Comes Down; All the Things You Are; Lover Man; Relaxin' at Camarillo; Godchild; Easy Living; Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; The More I See You; Terpsichore.

Personnel: Howard Roberts: guitar; Bill Holman: tenor sax, arranger; Pete Jolly: piano; Red Mitchell: bass; Stan Levey: drums; Marty Paich: arranger.

Record Label: Verve Music Group

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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