George Mitchell: Play Zone (2004)
George Mitchell is known most notably as keyboard expert for Diana Ross. He has also performed and recorded with Sonny Stitt, Eddie Harris, and Philly Joe Jones. His new release on OA2 Records is a mainstream affair that swings from beginning to end. The recording places the rhythm section in front, Chris Lee’s deft cymbal work and Scott Sneed’s just-shy-of-the-beat bass tether both on an even footing with Mitchell’s crispy clean melody lines.
On the opener, "Inspiration," the rhythm section performs as a trio, with Mr. Sneed providing a well considered bass solo over one of the lightest cymbal touches you are likely to hear. The section plays as an intuitive unit, taking corners at 100 miles per hour. "Time Will Tell" adds guitarist Dan Balmer, whose simple, harmonic guitar lines offer a soft foil to Mitchell’s crystalline pianism. The same guitar-keyboards relationship translates into the jazz organ combo of "Let’s Get With It." The result is more style and less grease, with Mitchell showing his cerebral organ chops.
"Thank You, New York" is Mr. Mitchell’s resetting of "Body and Soul," and features Mitchell’s more contemplative side. Henry Mancini’s "Slow, Hot, Wind" features the languid tenor saxophone for Patrick Lamb weaving in and out of Mitchell’s B-3 musings. Again, nothing greasy here, only a refined sophistication. "All The Things You Are" is given the extreme makeover. Forget the famous Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker introduction, Mr. Mitchell reboots the opening as Parker did with "Embraceable You" decades before.
Play Zonegets high marks for being a well-behaved and polite mainstream recording whose intelligence and precociousness make it very enjoyable listening.
Track Listing: Inspiration; Time Will Tell; Let
Personnel: George Mitchell