If you want to hear what pianist Mike Longo enjoys, and how he thinks, you listen to his big band--The New York State Of The Art Jazz Ensemble--which is featured on Live From New York! (Consolidate Artists Productions, 2013); if you just want to hear Mike Longo, you listen to this trio. Step On It is the third go-round for this group, following Sting Like A Bee (Consolidated Artists Productions, 2009) and the trio-plus-guests To My Surprise (Consolidated Artists Productions, 2011). Both of those albums contain plenty of familiar songs, as does this standards-heavy date, so some ...read more
The fourth album by pianist Mike Longo's stalwart New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble is the first one recorded in front of an audience, in May 2013 at the New York City Baha'i Center's John Birks Gillespie Auditorium. On the one hand, Live from New York! offers the kind of spontaneity and high spirits a studio date seldom can; on the other, no less than three of its eight tracks are vocals, and their acceptance is a matter of personal opinion and taste. In this quarter, the sentiment is that there is far too much emoting by guest ...read more
When trumpet titan Dizzy Gillespie left this earth he left no shortage of disciples behind. His now-legendary peers (i.e. saxophonists Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson), a cadre of killer Cubans (Arturo Sandoval, multi-reedist Paquito D'Rivera, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, etc.) and a pride of young lions all worked with him, learned from him, and sang his praises, both before and after he departed; so did/does pianist Mike Longo, though too few people seem to recognize him. Part of the problem, as illustrated above, is that Longo never fit neatly into a category. He was too young to be ...read more
When is a trio not a trio? Well, when it's the Mike Longo Trio +2, which actually makes it a quintet. Such is the case on six of the dozen tracks on Longo's new CD, To My Surprise, which showcases not only the versatile pianist's core group (bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash), but also the impressive talents of trumpeter Jimmy Owens and tenor saxophonist Lance Bryant.What is apparent from the outset is that everyone is having a grand time. Even though clearly well-rehearsed (and well-recorded), the session has an engaging looseness about it, epitomizing the way ...read more
Though veteran jazz pianist Mike Longo has a long and distinguished career that includes a 25-year association with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, To My Surprise documents only the second recording with his existing trio. This follow-up to his very successful Sting Like A Bee (Consolidated Artist Production, 2009), features the same lineup of bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash as the core trio, but a major difference is the inclusion of trumpet luminary Jimmy Owens and tenor saxophonist Lance Bryant on a half dozen tracks, hence the amended group title: Mike Longo Trio + 2.With an augmented ...read more
Sting Like A Bee is pianist Mike Longo's follow-up to his well-received Float Like A Butterfly (Consolidated Artists Productions, 2008). Bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash join him, and this CD is so laidback and relaxed that it comes as no surprise to read in the liner notes that there was no need to listen to any playbacks. This offering is a tribute to two mentors: Oscar Peterson, with whom he studied for a time as a private student, and Dizzy Gillespie, for whom he was music director on and off for nine years. As a ...read more
Mike Longo, who studied piano with Oscar Peterson and served for a number of years as Dizzy Gillespie's pianist and music director, brings that experience and more to Sting Like a Bee, the follow-up to his well-received trio session from 2007, Float Like a Butterfly (Consolidated Artists Productions). While there's a different backup crew this time, it would be hard to envision a more virtuosic or compatible duo than bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash. Playing with Longo for the first time after only one rehearsal, their symmetry is truly remarkable.
Among other delights, Longo salutes his mentor, Peterson, ...read more
Pianist Mike Longo has a couple of things in common with legendary heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali: first, they both employed the same phrase throughout their careers--"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"--and second,, they both deliver quite a punch, Ali with his fists and Longo on the keys. Sting Like a Bee--dedicated to Longo's father, who passed away in 2009--is Longo's follow-up to Float Like a Butterfly (Consolidated Artist Productions, 2007) and does not pull any punches, providing quite a musical wallop. Along with bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash, the trio provides tasteful improvisational jazz, recorded live ...read more
The title of this CD says it all--the Mike Longo Trio (Longo on piano, Paul West on bass and Jimmy Wormworth on drums) takes music on a smooth flight just like a butterfly, delighting with every track. 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 ...read more
When an essential element is missing from a recording, even the highest quality of musicianship cannot make up for its absence. There is no doubt that Mike Longo and his trio, featuring bassist Paul West and drummer Jimmy Wormworth, are musicians and improvisers of the first order, but on Float Like a Butterfly one cannot shake the sense that an important ingredient is absent.
On most of the pieces one waits for a horn player to enter the scene and lead the group, because the trio's playing is so understated as to be that of a rhythm section ...read more
In 1961, while performing in Chicago, pianist Mike Longo was introduced to one of his musical heroes, Oscar Peterson. After hearing him play, Peterson invited Longo to study with him at the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto. Needless to say, Longo accepted eagerly, and spent six months absorbing wisdom from the master. It's an experience he still considers the most important step in [his] life, one that led to Longo's successful alliance with Dizzy Gillespie, first as pianist in the legendary trumpeter's quintet and later as Gillespie's music director.
Having already recorded a tribute to Gillespie with I ...read more
The golden age of big bands ebbed long ago and the economics and logistics of maintaining large groups in today's music climate make a comeback unlikely. Despite these difficulties, there are champions of the big band--those who don't assemble all-star groupings merely for one-offs, but develop their music with a stable band. One such standard bearer, pianist Mike Longo, leads his seventeen-piece New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble on their third CD, Oasis. Working with four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, guitar, bass, drums, piano, and guest vocals on originals and standards, Longo may not reinvent ...read more
Having ignited an Explosion and braved the Aftermath on their first two albums, composer/arranger/pianist Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble offer the listener an Oasis on the third, a sanctuary that is perhaps a touch more temperate and peaceful but nevertheless houses an ample reserve of pugnacity and power.
Longo, who learned as Dizzy Gillespie's longtime music director to swing first and ask questions later, makes sure the momentum never slackens on his seven impassioned compositions, four spellbinding standards, Antonio Carlos Jobim's breezy No More Blues" and the lissome finale, tenor saxophonist Frank Perowsky's ...read more
Mike Longo's New York State Of The Art Jazz Ensemble preserves the big band tradition that he served loyally with Dizzy Gillespie for more than sixteen years. Lyrical ballads and hot romps characterize the spirit well. Collectively, the band provides a balanced performance that swings with a relaxed air.
Vocalist Hilary Gardner interprets Love Walked In," Song of My Dream," and The Night We Called it a Day." She's particularly effective on the latter Matt Dennis composition, where emotions take over and you're persuaded to breathe a big sigh in relief. Here, the band's Latin arrangement turns the ...read more
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