Drummer Bruce Jackson's second recording, Just Left of Center, is mainstream quartet recording pinging from the hard bop/post bop quadrant of the musical radar. The recording is made up of five pieces, the final one being the seemingly unlikely Jack Bruce song "Theme for an Imaginary Western." Written and recorded originally by Bruce for his recording, Songs for a Taylor (Atco, 1969) and made famous by Felix Pappalardi and Mountain on Climbing! (Windfall, 1970), "Imaginary Western" possesses a pretty, if not opulent, melody, perfect for jazz interpretation.
The song is a calm showcase for tenor saxophonist Mike Mullan, who performs with Jackson and bassist Steve Varner as a pianoless trio. The performance is most effective, with plenty of Miles Davis empty space surrounding the three musicians. Mullan is front and center, playing both bluesy and balladic. Varner provides just enough momentum to keep the performance from dragging, generating a universe of harmony, one note at a time. Jackson reveals a deft ability with brushes, adding a plush fodder over which Mullan plays. The durmmer's sense of time is sure and his use of percussion dramatics simpatico with the rest of the trio on this exceptional interpretation.
Personnel: Mike Mullan: tenor saxophone; Bob Himmelberger: piano; Steve Varner: acoustic bass; Bruce Jackson: drums.
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