Mike Longo Trio: Float Like A Butterfly (2008)
Longo is probably one of the most underappreciated jazz pianists around. His musical history includes studying with the late Oscar Peterson (a major inspiration), playing in the Dizzy Gillespie quintet and eventually serving as Gillespie's musical director, all leading to the development of a playing style that seems completely effortless. He transits between single-note playing and chords with ease and is a most adept soloist. There is much substance in his playing and many layers, including a sense of humor that he certainly shared with Gillespie. But what impresses most here is an ability to make everything he plays sound so simple.
The material is a fresh treatment of the Great American Songbook, some jazz standards and one Longo original. Starting off with the usually bland "Girl of My Dreams," Longo reharmonizes chords and swings the tune to create an exciting offering. His sensitive readings of "Tenderly" and "Laura" and exquisite phrasing on "Dancing In The Dark" instill these well-known songs with new spirit. Also included are tunes by Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Thelonious Monk and former boss Gillespie treated with all respect they deserve. Longo's original tune, "Diminished Returns," a very slow blues that is expectedly based on diminished chords, still swings.
There is a wonderful chemistry between Longo and his cohorts as well as notable individual performances. West's lyrical playing is displayed to great advantage on "It Could Happen To You" and Gillespie's "Here Tiz" while Wormworth contributes throughout with tasty fills and punctuation, as well as fine soloing on Monk's "Evidence." Like the butterfly, this CD is a work of joy and beauty and is probably destined to be a classic.
Track Listing: Girl Of My Dreams; Dancing In The Dark; Witch Hunt; Diminished Returns; Tenderly; Blue Spirits; Everytime I See You; It Could Happen To You; Laura; Here Tiz (Impromptu); Evidence.
Personnel: Mike Longo: piano; Paul West: bass; Jimmy Wormworth: drums.
Record Label: Consolidated Artists Productions