In their quest to beef up a CD’s exposure, good-intentioned industry insiders can sometimes unintentionally steer an album down a dead-end path. On the cover of Bennie Wallace’s The Nearness of You,
a voluptuous woman clings to his shoulder looking seductively at his sax. The liner notes feature another babe in a low-cut evening dress resting on a piano with a sax. Viagra-infused lounge lizards trying to impress their first dates with their impeccable taste in mood music—and Park Avenue dinner party hostesses seeking lightly rendered jazz standards that won’t overpower the table talk—are the established target audiences for this CD.
The industry folks just don’t get it: Bennie Wallace (tenor sax), Kenny Barron (piano) and Eddie Gomez (bass) are just too talented to be pigeon-holed into a straight-ahead, mostly easy listening standards album. Basically, it’s a nice album but not something that excites the senses, starts the juices flowing or forces you to confront new interpretations and ideas. In sum, it’s a pleasant disc but not one you’ll want to pop into the player on a regular basis.
Having offered that much criticism, I would be remiss not to say that there are moments here that are truly delightful. Take for example, Kenny Barron’s soulful blues playing on Ann Ronell’s "Willow Weep for Me." Or Wallace and Gomez’s outstanding duo on Sam Coslow’s and Arthur Johnson’s "Cocktails for Two." The last track, Henry Nemo’s "’Tis Autumn," includes fine solos by all three musicians.
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Personnel: Bennie Wallace: Tenor Saxophone;
Eddie Gomez: Bass;
Kenny Barron: Piano.