, too, but his greatest asset isn't his résumé. O'Connell possesses a classicist's touch that, thanks to a melding of his conservatory training with his life experiences, can be altered at will. O'Connell might be waxing rhapsodicpun intendedat one point, but in the next moment he might be sizzling through a salsa-like section of music with a more aggressive attack. On various occasions, he manages to conjure these seemingly opposed ideals simultaneously, but none of this comes off as preplanned maneuvering. Good taste, fast reflexes, killer technique and a fluid ability to shift between Latin and swing mediums at will help to make Rhapsody In Blue one of the most engaging and enjoyable Latin jazz records of 2010.
makes the most of his appearance on "J-Man," delivering some awe-inspiring solo work.
While the guests add variety to the program, O'Connell doesn't need any big names to carry the load. He delivers expressive tides of sound on ballads ("It Never Entered My Mind"), provides explosive solo work on intense and irrepressible Latin numbers ("Off Center"), and lends solid support for his crew throughout the program. While O'Connell is a tough act with which to keep up, his band more than meets the challenge. Two bassistsDavid Finck
split the material, and both men bring their unique gifts to the table. Finck, with a focused, but not fat tone, is tremendous on his solo spot during "Pocket Change." At the other end of the spectrum, he provides rock solid support during the emotionally riveting "It Never Entered My Mind." Curtis, with a wider sound and affinity for sliding in and out of different grooves, anchors some of the most intense rhythmic numbers on the album.
is brimming with energy, taking the band in myriad directions, often within the same song. Slagle is so focused, frenetic and ever-present that he virtually deserves co-billing. During the lone piano-saxophone presentation ("Rose Hill"), the pair is alternately romantic, restless, ruminative and relaxed, but always engrossing.
Like the Gershwin masterpiece giving this album its name, Rhapsody In Blue is a masterful musical creation that transcends any one given style that resides within the work.
Track Listing: Monk's Cha-cha; Pocket Change; Rhapsody In Blue; It Never Entered My Mind; J-Man; Off-Center; Two Worlds; Log-a-rhythm; Rose Hill; Bye Bye Blackbird.
Personnel: Bill O'Connell: piano; Luques Curtis: bass (1, 6-8, 10); David Finck: bass (2-5); Steve Berrios: drums; Steve Slagle: alto saxophone (1-3, 5, 6, 8, 9), soprano saxophone (4, 7); Richie Flores: percussion (1, 3); Dave Samuels: vibraphone (1, 3); Conrad Herwig: trombone (5).