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The Earl May Quartet: Swinging The Blues (2006)

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The Earl May Quartet: Swinging The Blues How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Over the course of the last half-century, Earl May has been one of the busiest bass players in the New York Area. He spent just about the entire decade of the 1950s with the long-running Billy Taylor Trio. Dr. Taylor arranged for a reunion recording of the original trio (with Percy Brice on drums), which was recorded for Prestige in 2003 as Billy Taylor Trio with Earl May/Percy Brice.

On this latest effort, May shows his ability to provide the pulse of this quartet as well as manage some nimble solos. Recording for Arbors, one of the key labels specializing in post-war swing music, the Earl May Quartet fits right in and then some. Altoist David Glasser takes most of the melody statements, providing the right touch. On the jump tunes, like the Count Basie piece "Swinging The Blues," Glasser sounds very much like Paul Desmond in his prime. On the first ballad, "Blame It On My Youth," Glasser's notes curl inward on the beautiful Oscar Levant/Edward Heyman melody. Dave Glasser also contributes a fine ballad, "Blue Iridescense," and his solo on that composition explores the blues content of the piece.

Earl May's reputation is that of a workhorse who has to be coaxed to take a solo. I am pleased to see that he does get the opportunity on this album, taking a walking bass solo on the title tune, beginning the melody line of "My Foolish Heart" before turning it over to Glasser, and putting in another good one on the Comden & Green/Jule Styne piece "Make Someone Happy." Larry Ham proves a most serviceable pianist, whether providing a romantic cushion for the ballads or fine comping on the up-tempo "Make Someone Happy." After having seen drummer Eddie Locke a number of times, I'd forgotten just how good he can be with brushes. You can hear that throughout the album and especially on Dave Glasser's "It's So Divine." Locke even contributes an original tune, "Wishes Are Starting To Don't Come True."

In addition to the standards and originals, the quartet tackles some bebop staples like "Lester Leaps In" and "Confirmation" rather smartly.

Track Listing: Swinging The Blues; Blame It On My Youth; My Foolish Heart; Tea For Two; Blue Iridescense; Make Someone Happy; Under African Skies; Sioux Suite; My Old Flame; Confirmaton; Wishes Are Starting To Don't Come True; It's So Divine; Lester Leaps In.

Personnel: Earl May: bass; David Glasser: alto sax; Kenny Ham: piano; Barry Harris: piano (4,9); Eddie Locke: drums.

Record Label: Arbors Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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