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The Charlie Shoemake Trios: Lands End

Jack Bowers By

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Talk about your talents deserving wider recognition. Vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake, now in his 60s, has been making beautiful music for more than forty–five years but is almost unknown (except to musicians) beyond his home base in southern California. Perhaps this splendid bop–based album may help change that. Shoemake, a first–call studio musician on the Hollywood / Los Angeles scene for many years, moved more than a decade ago with his wife, singer Sandi Shoemake, to Cambria, CA, where they’ve been performing regularly at a local restaurant, The Hamlet, with guest artists from the U.S. and Europe. Sandi, who has sung on a number of Charlie’s albums and some of her own, doesn’t appear on Trios, but Shoemake has invited two special guests, guitarist Bruce Forman and alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, to lend their ample talents to the enterprise. Shoemake, Forman and bassist Bob Maize comprise a trio on five selections while McPherson (with Shoemake, bassist Luther Hughes and drummer Paul Kreibich) makes it a quartet on two others. Charlie’s regular trio (Hughes, Kreibich) play together on three tracks, and Shoemake goes it alone on the last one, his sharply written “Just a Few Lines in Closing.” As a player, Shoemake has the technical command and musical awareness of a Milt Jackson while the sound he produces is reminiscent of Cal Tjader, Bobby Hutcherson or his friend and mentor, Victor Feldman (with echoes of Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo as well). “In Jazz,” says clarinet master Artie Shaw, a man who does not sprinkle words of praise casually, “there have been a few great players on the vibraphone. Charlie Shoemake is one of them.” Shoemake–Hughes–Kreibich perform a ballad by Shaw and lyricist Johnny Mercer, “Love of My Life,” along with Jazz essays by Jackie McLean, Harold Land, John Lewis / Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Drew Sr., Lennie Tristano and Lucky Thompson, the standards “It Happened in Monterey” and “On the Alamo,” and Shoemake’s “Few Lines.” Forman, whose name I knew but little else, is a pleasant surprise, displaying excellent chops and persuasive ideas, and even though I’ve heard McPherson play with more fire on other occasions, an average day for him is an enviable one for most others. The rhythm sections are splendid, and everyone is quite well–recorded. Good vibes? Yes indeed; so good they all but reach out and grab you.

Contact:Chase Music Group, P.O. Box 11178, Glendale, CA 91226. Phone 800–724–2730; e–mail cmgrec@earthlink.net; web site, www.chasemusic.com

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