Sheryl Bailey 4: For All Those Living (2011)
Those familiar with Bailey's guitar work from her trio recordings will encounter the same spirit and zest in her playing here, but the presentation is a bit different. The rollicking organ trio format is replaced by a more nuanced quartet. With the organ ousted from her group, Bailey brings on pianist Jim Ridl, and he proves to be a perfect match in every way. When Bailey shifts into Wes Montgomery mode on "Masa's Bag," Ridl picks up on the overall vibe of the piece, delivering a spirited solo that places technique and soul on equal footing. Ridl even threatens to steal the show when he ratchets up the excitement with his superb solo on "29-11."
While each member of Bailey's quartet is a fine player, and soloists in their own right, their attention to clarity and articulation is even more important than their chops. Drummer Shingo Okudaira doesn't buy into the washy-cymbals-are-better philosophy, and his dry ride cymbal is clear and focused. Bassist Gary Wang makes everything feel good, and, while Ridl and Bailey certainly play their fair share of notes, they never sacrifice cleanliness for the sake of being flashy.
While all of Bailey's compositions have an understated and hip allure, no two pieces are exactly alike: she delivers waltzes, both spry ("For All Those Living") and relatively soothing ("For A Russian Princess"); passes out attractive and simple melody lines over a groove in five ("29-11"); and cooks over some sizzling swing ("Moblin'"), all with confidence and a sense of purpose. On occasion, the solos end up outshining the songs that contain them, as on "Wilkinsburg," but that's a reflection on the individual strengths of the musicians, not a weakness in the writing.
For All Those Living is a fine showcase for Sheryl Bailey's writing and playing, also doubling as an important philanthropic project. Bailey has long been connected with the Ronald McDonald House of New York City, and she'll be donating a portion of all sales to this worthwhile organization, making this album a rare marriage of superb music and charitable sensitivity.
Track Listing: An Unexpected Turn; For All Those Living; A Muse Sings; Masa's Bag; 29-11; Wilkinsburg; For A Russian Princess; Moblin.'
Personnel: Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Jim Ridl: piano; Gary Wang: bass; Shingo Okudaira: drums.
Record Label: PureMusic Records