As might be expected, this is a quite uneven collection, capturing the festive occasion that was Marian McPartland's 85th birthday party. There are no truly "low" points, but a few are inessential. Norah Jones reprises Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," the single standard from her gold record "Come Away with Me" (Karrin Allyson, despite having vocal difficulties on this date, proves more engaging with her reading of McPartland's "Twilight World"). Both McPartland and the great (always underrated) Billy Taylor have some memory lapses and moments of indecision but cover well (nevertheless, pianist Bill Charlap proves to be critical to the evening's musical success).
Phil Woods is predictably masterful on each of his turns, especially on Harold Arlen's "Last Night When We Were Young." Tenor saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Loren Schoenberg contribute effective solos, though the standout is Chris Potter, who combines the motivic development of a Sonny Rollins with the smooth, assured virtuosity of a Sonny Stitt. (I doubt he could be upstaged by any current tenor playerMarsalis, Redman, Lovano, Brecker, Liebman, Alexander, etc.)
The most revelatory moments of the event come with the contributions of the trumpet stars, each providing a distinctive approach that reflects the influence of a different predecessor. Dave Douglas is clearly the musical child of Miles Davis, capturing the tone quality, extroverted sound, adventurous note choices, and bitonal scales that characterized Miles' playing from 1960-67; Roy Hargrove is the direct heir to Clifford Brown's inspired lyricism and unforced drama; Jon Faddis goes for the stratosphere, conjuring up the spirit of his mentor Dizzy Gillespie 1945-1955, when Diz was at his pyrotechnical best. Finally, Clark Terry is still Clark Terry, sounding almost as proficient on this occasion as he does on the 1969 White House 70th birthday party for Duke Ellington (Jim Hall and Billy Taylor were also on hand for both celebrations).
There may have been 85 candles present, but together they produced a vital flame, a torch one can only be too happy to see passed on.
Disc One: 1. I Love You (9:10) 2. The Nearness Of You (5:17) 3. Tangerine (8:04) 4. Last Night When We Were Young (6:02) 5. Twilight World (5:10) 6. I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me (7:13) 7. Free Piece (2:36) 8. Old Friend (3:00) 9. Have You Met Miss Jones (2:28) 10. Take The 'A' Train (4:48) 11. Summertime (4:16)
Disc Two: 1. All Blues (9:15) 2. My Foolish Heart (5:20) 3. But Not For Me (3:25) 4. Memories Of You (6:56) 5. Yesterdays (6:04) 6. While We're Young (3:52) 7. I've Told Every Little Star (5:44) 8. Capricious (3:45) 9. What Am I Here For (4:59) 10. Onyx Mood / Soft Lights & Sweet Music / Kaleidoscope (3:00) 11. Lester Leaps In (7:44)
Marian McPartland, Gary Mazzaroppi, Bill Crow and Glenn Davis plus guests Karrin Allyson, Jackie Cain, Barbara Carroll, Regina Carter, Bill Charlap, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Douglas, Jon Faddis, Nnenna Freelon, Jim Hall, Roy Hargrove, Norah Jones, Jackie King, Jason Moran, Chris Potter, Loren Schoenberg, Curtis Stigers, Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, George Wein, James Williams, Phil Woods.