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Pianist Bill Cunliffe, winner of the 1989 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, seems to be making something of a career out of recording Reed Kotler tunes. He did that with Bobby Shew, Gary Foster and Friends Play the Music of Reed Kotler in 2002; Bill Cunliffe and Gary Foster: It's About Love: The Music of Reed Kotler in 2003; and now he offers up Tomo: The Music of Reed Kotler.
Five musicians are named on the disc's cover, but with Cunliffe sitting in the producer/arranger chair, you might call this group Bill Cunliffe and Friends.
The sound here is sleek and elegant, like a new sedan on a showroom floor or rolling smoothly on a freeway drive, flashing in the sunlight, cylinders humming in a smooth synchronizationthat's how seamlessly the arrangements fit together; that's how Cunlffe shines up Kotler's classy songs.
This quintet, with guitarist Larry Koonse, tenor/soprano saxophonist Bob Shepard, bassist Derek Oles, and drummer Mark Ferber joining pianist Cunliffe, is the perfect fit for the classically pretty melodies of Kotler, tunes so well constructedand arranged herethat you sometimes miss the individual artistries at work.
Kotler's tunes remind me of some of the time-tested songsmith work of composers like Henry Mancini and Cole Porter: well-crafted melodies that flow effortlessly.
There's nothing groundbreaking on Tomo, just beautiful songs played with warmth and elegance by a cohesive group of musicians.
Track Listing: All My Love's for You, Sweet Suzannah, I will Always Love You, Did I Ask You if You Knew (That I Love You), Someday I Will Find Her, In a Restful Place, On a Warm Summer Night, When I Look At You, Love's Such a Funny Thing, It's Been A While, Joyful Times, Waltz for Gary
Personnel: Bob Sheppard--tenor and soprano saxophnes and flute d'amour; Larry Koonse--guitar; Bill Cunliffe--piano; Derek Oles--bass; Mark Ferber--drums