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Charlie Jennison Quartet: Iridescence

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Charlie Jennison's debut album for Maine's Invisible Music Records is a smooth piece of work. "Smooth" not in the sense of the saccharine stuff served up by contemporary jazz players, but smooth as in classy unpretentiousness in the playing. Jennison is an alumnus of the Do'ah Wild Music Ensemble, a New Hampshire group which recorded for Global Pacific label. He has since gravitated to jazz having recorded with singers Kathleen Kolman and Leila Percy, among others. Jennison has also worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Buddy DeFranco and is on the faculty of New Hampshire's Phillips Exeter Academy. Forsaking standard material for his first album, the play list is made up of ten Jennison originals all in various tempi and style, but which start getting repetitious along the way as ideas get thin. Some of the better pieces include "To You, From Me" which features Jennison on alto with some exciting drum breaks by Ken Clark. Another piece spotlighting Jennison's alto, which sounds like Phil Woods when Woods is in a mellow mood, is the lovely ballad "Georgie," with "My Anne" rivaling "Georgie" for sheer musical attractiveness. The tenor takes over on "Watch Your Step" with Jennison showing some incredible dexterity with daring fingering technique. There's a nice blues with a funky piano solo by Jim Butka and good bass strumming from John Hunter on "Amanda's Blues." Jennison brings out his soprano on "Rain in My Coffee" which has a light Latin beat with more good piano from Jim Butka.

But virtually all tunes on this session take the same course. There's an introduction establishing the basic melody structure, followed by some technically compelling fingering after which there's a return to the melody. No matter how good the instrumentalist is —and Jennison is very good—unless the original material is superior, it's not going to hold one's attention for a whole sitting. And that is the case here. I have heard Jennison on other albums and he handles standard stuff very well. It would have behooved him to have put a couple of those on this CD. This would have strengthened the credibility of the original material.

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