As I’ve written many times before, I know guitarists by name and reputation more than by sound or mannerisms. So what a particular guitarist plays is (usually) more important to me than how he (or she) goes about doing it. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that most guitarists sound pretty much the same to these undisciplined ears. Kenny Poole, who seems to be as proficient as any contemporary guitarist, keeps the pilot light low on Tribute, which is dedicated to one of his primary influences, the virtuosic George Van Eps (who passed away in 1998). To do so, Poole has chosen an assortment of songs that Van Eps loved and played most of his life. The elder guitarist must have had exquisite taste, as they include such treasures as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “East of the Sun,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Change Partners,” “You Go to My Head,” “When Lights Are Low,” “Stars Fell on Alabama,” “I’ll Remember April,” “Indian Summer” and other enduring standards. Also on the menu are George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” and a couple of lesser–known tunes, “Ah! Se Eupudesse” and Willard Robinson’s ”Pidgeon–Toed Joed.” Poole plays ten of them unaccompanied, five alongside vibraphonist Dick Sisto and drummer John Von Ohlen (whose restraint in the trio setting is exemplary). As most of these numbers have been played many times in many contexts (which is, after all, why they are considered standards), one must decide for himself or herself whether hearing them again is worthwhile. What we can report is that Poole (and the trio) play them quite well, and that Kenny’s love and respect for Van Eps is evident throughout the program. Sadly, the dedicatee never had a chance to hear the recording. “I saw [George] in L.A. a year or so ago . . .,” Poole writes in the liner notes. “When I told him I was doing this project he was so happy to hear about it. I was two days away from sending him a cassette copy when I found out that he had died.” If, however, the spirit indeed lives on, the master must be smiling at what his disciple has accomplished.
Track listing: Just You, Just Me; Come Rain or Come Shine; You Make Me Feel So Young; Gone with the Wind; Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You; East of the Sun; Change Partners; Ah! Se Eupudesse; You Go to My Head; Lullaby of Birdland; When Lights Are Low; Stars Fell on Alabama; Indian Summer; I’ll Remember April; Pidgeon–Toed Joed (63:57).
Kenny Poole, guitar; John Von Ohlen, drums (tracks 1, 4, 7, 10, 13); Dick Sisto, vibes (tracks 1, 4, 7, 10, 13).
I love jazz because it swings.
I was first exposed to jazz in Houston.
I met Joe LoCascio and Bob Henschen.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino.
The first jazz record I bought was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
My advice to new listeners is to relax on 2 and 4 beats.