St. Cloud, MN is known for its granite, printing and lens manufacturing industries. Now it can put another feather in its claim to fame hat as the home of Pine Curtain Productions, the album for the very good jazz aggregation, The George Maurer Group. This is the Group's second album and with the exception of adding another, the group remains intact.
Judging by the play list the Maurer and company see as its mission presenting jazz in as many of its forms as is possible within the context of the recording situation. So there are ballads, swing, blues, traditional and more on this a live performance from St. Paul. Vocalist Ann Michels rhapsodizes on trumpet player Richard Witteman's "Wallflower" sounding anything but. One of the album's more powerful tracks is the opener, a 10 minute exploration of "Caravan". The trek is led by Witteman's trumpet. But prominent members of the cavalcade include leader/pianist Maurer, whose sizzling solo quotes from George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", Muggsy Lauer's elevated guitar playing and some captivating drum work by Scott Chabot. Everyone has fun giving this Ellington/Tizol warhorse for a fresh run the money. "Pete's Place" is a tribute to a local hangout with accolades to its menu sung by Lauer with a voice that someone named Muggsy is supposed to have. Tom Pattock's down and dirty trumpet shares the honor on this one as he quotes a few bars from the old Jack Benny Show's theme song, the maudlin "Love in Bloom". Like the last album, there's a special guest with the group, trombonist, bass trumpet player Jim Ten Bensel. His lyrical trombone is featured on "To His Coy Mistress".
With this release the Group continues its march to becoming one of the preeminent small jazz groups on the scene. Recommended.
Personnel: George Maurer - Piano/Leader; Scott Chabot - Drums; Jeff Engholm - Bass; Muggsy Lauer - Guitar/Vocals; Ann Michels - Vocals; Richard Witteman - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Tom Pattock - Trumpet; Jim Ten Bensel - Trombone/Bass Trumpet