I first heard Mike Melvoin when he worked with flautist Paul Horn in the ‘60s. The innovative Horn had chosen a brilliant rhythm section that included, along with Melvoin, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin. And now, nearly 40 years later, that same trio reunites on It’s Always You, Melvoin's newest CD on the City Light label.
Melvoin's long career includes collaborations with legendary artists that include Leroy Vinnegar, Gerald Wilson, Joe Pass, Oliver Nelson, and Milt Jackson. He’s firmly established himself as a first call studio player in Los Angeles and he has composed, conducted and helmed projects with the some of the industry’s biggest names, including Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, Barry Manilow and John Williams.
But most of all, Melvoin's a magnificent pianist with great chops. I really like his approach and the unique rhythmic and melodic choices in this collection of standards and original compositions. Like many pianists from the sixties, Melvoin can’t help but be influenced by Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan and Bill Evansbut in the final analysis, this is all Mike...innovative, facile and original. And as for the rest of the rhythm section, Goodwin and Gilmore are superb. These two guys have played together for years and it shows.
And if that weren’t enough, Melvoin's longtime friend, saxophonist Phil Woods, joins him on this recording. Woods has led his own quartet, which incidentally includes Gilmore and Goodwin, for over 30 years and the synergy, and empathy displayed by these longtime friends and collaborators is awesome. For me it was like listening to a classic Blue Note recording featuring Wynton or Cedar or Ronnie Matthews.
“All or Nothing at All” kicks off this session. Listen to the substitute changes near the bridge. They give this classic a whole new sound and it’s obvious that the guys enjoy the new directions these changes allow. “Are You Going to Eat That” is blues and bebop played by musicians at the top of their game, and Woods' amazing dexterity reminds us why he continues to be one of the best saxophonists ever. There’s especially nice work here by Goodwin and Gilmore. “Dawn Dance” is pure homage to Bill Evans. Mike’s touch and shading are wonderful to experience and demonstrate the versatility of his artistry. The title song, “It’s Always You,” is a lyrical original penned for his wife, Sandy. Another original, “But I Have To” is pure Monk.
Other standards include “I Hear a Rhapsody,” "I’m Confessin’,” "Easy to Love" and “Come Rain or Come Shine.” While these are oft played favorites, Melvoin and friends keep them fresh, and full of surprises chorus after chorus. And listen as Phil Woods switches to the clarinet on “I’m Confessin’.” There's no mistaking that confidence and facility. It's classic Woods.
If you love your jazz straight ahead, cookin’ and well done, It’s Always You may be just what you're looking for.
Track Listing: All or Nothing at All,
Are You Going to Eat That?,
Easy to Love,
It's Always You,
I Hear a Rhapsody,
But I Have To,
This is the Place,
Come Rain or Come Shine,
Whatever Bianca Wants.
Personnel: Mike Melvoin, Piano;
Phil Woods, Alto Saxophone and Clarinet;
Steve Gilmore, Bass;
Bill Goodwin, Drums.