Although the name Mike Longo isn't as readily known in Jazz circles as, say, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Barron, Tommy Flanagan, McCoy Tyner, Barry Harris or Hank Jones, his pianistic acumen is assuredly in the same league with those gentlemen. One doesn't serve as Dizzy Gillespie's pianist/music director, as Longo did for many years, without having something special to offer. Although he has recorded a number of albums as leader (The Earth Is But One Country, New York '78, I Miss You John) they have consisted primarily of original compositions by Longo or his sidemen. Here, in a trio setting, the pianist interprets half a dozen enduring standards, offers an extended medley from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," and performs two songs by Gillespie (Woody 'n You, Tin Tin Deo), Eddie Harris' Freedom Jazz Dance and one of his own compositions, the unhurried blues Dawn of a New Day, which opens this picturesque and engaging session - three sessions actually, as Longo is accompanied by bassists Paul West (four tracks), Ben Brown (five) or John Lee and drummers Ray Mosca (nine tracks) or Ignacio Berroa (Speak Low, Freedom Jazz Dance). In every case, the changes in personnel are seamless and the rhythm section solidly supportive. Meanwhile, Longo shows clearly that he knows his way around the keyboard, cruising in stride (no pun intended) through ballads, blues (including a mercurial version of Limehouse Blues) and an especially funky rendition of the Kurt Weill classic, Speak Low. Perhaps because of his years with Dizzy, Longo plays piano with a hornman's conception and temperament, building his elegant improvisational statements logically and with enormous respect for harmony and dynamics. The result is music that is vibrant, accessible and consistently rewarding.
Mike Longo, piano, arranger; Paul West, Ben Brown, acoustic bass; John Lee, electric bass; Ray Mosca, drums; Ignacio Berroa, drums (on "Speak Low," "Freedom Jazz Dance")
Dawn of a New Day, Why Do I Love You, Woody 'n You, The Shadow of Your Smile, Tin Tin Deo, Sweet and Lovely, Porgy and Bess Medley, Speak Low, A Fine Romance, Freedom Jazz Dance, Limehouse Blues
Reprinted with permission from Marge Hofacre's Jazz News