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Most of us have heard the adage about “a bird in the hand.” Here’s a variation: A Bird in the Hand (when borne by Boston–based guitarist Steve Rochinski’s trio/quartet) is worth listening to — and more than once. As I’ve said before, I couldn’t single out one guitarist from another in a blindfold test if failure to do so would result in my being shot at sunrise; but I do know who can play and who can’t. Steve Rochinski can. In other words, the technique is immaculate, the concepts free–flowing, the propensity to swing unflagging. Nearly as impressive is the tasteful interplay between Rochinski and his colleagues with no one ever seeking to commandeer the spotlight. The leader does give each of them a chance to spread his wings, with a consistently favorable outcome. Rochinsky’s choice of material is exemplary (any album that opens with Victor Young’s “Beautiful Love” is in the proper groove from the outset). There are two songs by the great Jerome Kern, “They Didn’t Believe Me” and the bluesy “Go Little Boat” (one of the few compositions by Kern I’d never heard before), Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town” (played as a bossa) and a medley of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” and Johnny Green’s “Body and Soul.” From the Jazz repertoire come Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” and “’Round Midnight,” Herbie Nichols’ “House Party Starting,” fellow guitarist Tal Farlow’s boppish “Tina” and Benny Golson’s ballad, “Hassan’s Dream.” Especially captivating are Charlie Parker’s “Bird in the Hand,” on which Rochinski’s guitar, thanks to overdubbing, becomes three to treble one’s pleasure, and the laid–back solo–guitar finale, “Powder Your Face with Sunshine,” which was co–written with Carmen Lombardo by Rochinkski’s grandfather, Frank Rochinski. While Thomas is a talented pianist, I preferred the trio selections (four) to the quartet (five) on which he sits in (which is not meant to imply that the quartet’s appearances are less than agreeable). “Stardust/Body and Soul” and “’Round Midnight” are duets for Rochinski and bassist Lee. especially admirable is Hunt's choice of brushes instead of sticks on three of the more intimate trio numbers (the exception being "Hassan's Dream." As Jo Jones once said, "A good drummer should be felt and not heard" (or, to put it another way, less is more). In sum, a most credibe outing for Rochinski and company. This is the first time I'd heard him; I hope it won't be the last.
Track listing: Beautiful Love; Monk’s Dream; House Party Starting; A Bird in the Hand; ’Round Midnight; Tina; Go Little Boat; Get Out of Town; They Didn’t Believe Me; Hassan’s Dream; Stardust/Body and Soul; Powder Your Face with Sunshine (63:08).
Steve Rochinski, guitar; Bruce Thomas, piano; Scott Lee, bass; Joe Hunt, drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.