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Various: Cincinnati Jazz Collection, Volume II

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Cincinnati, Ohio sitting in the Southwest corner of the state has pro football and baseball teams and is a weekend get away for students from Miami University of Ohio from nearby Oxford. It also abounds in jazz resources as this compilation, put together by the city's jazz J-Curve Records, confirms.

Given the city's rather conservative bent, mainstream, straight ahead jazz dominates the album, but is not exclusive. There's a sampling of smooth jazz represented by Triage headed by keyboard player Billy Larkin (really out of place here), Latin jazz played by the very good Latin X - Posure, the blasting of the Blue Wisp Big Band recalling Count Basie, with outstanding ensemble playing. The nationally known guitarist Cal Collins joins with another notable jazz guitarist, Kenny Poole, for a lovely, haunting "There Is no Greater Love". The Steve Schmidt Trio pays homage to Thelonious Monk with a slightly off center "Monkyside", a musical fantasy of what Thelonious Monk would do with "Sunny Side of the Street". There's a swinging version of "Satan Takes a Holiday" with clarinetist Joe Lukasik in the lead breathing new life into this 1937 Larry Clinton chestnut. The rather formally named William Menefield Trio gives us a soft blues-based rendition of Menefield's tribute to Bill Cosby's slain son, "G. B. E. COS".

Singers are forgotten by this collection. Kathy Wade comes through with a passionate, but bouncy, "Bye Bye Blackbird", backed by the Ed Moss Trio and featuring Steve Barnes' fine bass. For me, one of the albums' several treasures is Judy James' vocal backed by the Society Jazz Orchestra. In a straight forward, no nonsense manner, she narrates the story of the flirty, flighty, heartbreaking "Angel Eyes". James has a well-controlled vibrato which she uses with good effect in her end of a line phrasing.

Cincinnati citizens are indeed lucky to have at their disposal all this good jazz. Kudos to J Curve Records for sharing it with the rest of us. Recommended.

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