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For people like us who prefer their modern mainstream Jazz fresh and inventive, there’s People Like Us, a superbly synchronized and consistently enterprising quartet led by pianist Joel Forrester, featuring the wonderful baritone saxophonist Claire Daly and securely anchored by bassist Dave Hofstra and drummer Denis Charles who died in March ’98 after 23 years as Forrester’s dependable accompanist. Believe It, this is an enormously talented foursome whose lack of name recognition shouldn’t cause one to hesitate for a moment before considering what they have to offer. The quartet traverses half a dozen of Forrester’s original compositions (there are two versions of “Believe It”), and each one is a small–scale paragon of clearheaded and captivating chart–making. Forrester has an uncommonly sharp sense of humor too, and his liner–note commentary on the various songs is worth reading, as is his heartfelt tribute to his fallen comrade, Charles. Based solely on the evidence presented on this, his final recording, the opinion here is that Denis will no doubt be greatly missed, as much for his tasteful and unassuming support as for his whimsical, moderately off–center ad libs. If Charles was the group’s range–finder, Hofstra is its rock, and it’s a pleasure to hear his resonant bass ably shepherding the others toward an unerring groove. Forrester, a sure–handed modernist with an expansive and invariably pleasing keyboard vocabulary, shares the greater part of the solo space with Daly, whose debt to the late Gerry Mulligan is more apparent here than on her recent debut recording, Swing Low (also reviewed this month). But she’s a real talent whose locution is in no way overshadowed by Jeru; she has her own assortment of persuasive ideas and phrases. People Like Us is a superb quartet whose keen musical barometer never drops below stimulating. My only regret is that this is the group’s third recording, and the others somehow slipped past me!
I Believe It; Flip Flop; Think . . .Pretty; Just Like Him; White Blues; The Baker Bounce; I Believe It II (53:23).
Joel Forrester, piano; Claire Daly, baritone saxophone; Dave Hofstra, bass; Denis Charles, drums.