Rich Austin: Right At Home (2005)
Drummer Rich Austin leads his quartet in a fine début recording for this New Jersey combo. Each member of the group brings something different to the table, and I was most impressed by pianist Bob McHugh's playing/compositions and altoist Tommy LaBella's fluency and lyricism. On bass, Ron Naspo gets in some nifty arco solos on "Endearing Young Charms" and does likewise on "Time Was (Duerme)," beginning with a statement of the lovely melody.
McHugh contributes the first three tunes, which consist of half of this album, and they are attractive ones. On "Let The Chihuahuas Dance," after a rather ordinary two-minute intro, McHugh breaks into a Latin vamp and the group follows in a full-tilt Latin jazz display. It is apparent that the chihuahuas must have been dancing somewhere near San Juan. On my favorite track, "Something About Jane," Tommy LaBella takes this mid-tempo composition out for a cool walk evoking the ghosts of Bluenote/Prestige of the late '50s and early '60s. LaBella's own tune, "Calling of the Heart," also serves as a chance to give the drummer some, as well as inviting a bass solo from Naspo. McHugh begins the traditional "Endearing Young Charms" with a very churchy piano intro and then LaBella preaches a sermon that would do Hank Crawford proud. The track ends inexplicably with a free jazz flurry during its final minute. Austin provides a bolero tempo for the highly underappreciated standard "Time Was (Duerme)" for a graceful and melodic finale.
Track Listing: Let The Chihuahuas Dance, Quint Essentials, Something About Jane, Calling of the Heart, Endearing Young Charms, Time Was(Duerme).
Personnel: Rich Austin, drums and percussion; Tommy LaBella, alto sax; Bob McHugh,piano; Ron Naspo,bass.