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Former Dizzy Gillespie pianist Mike Longo hasn't had a very high-profile career. But while his playing and writing is somewhat unexceptional, his proficiency and ability to keep it all interesting are never at fault. The ten tracks that comprise this solid 59-minute CD come from two 1975-era albums Longo cut for Sonny Lester's Groove Merchant label, 900 Shares Of The Blues and Funkia.
The players - including Joe Farrell (reeds), Randy Brecker (trumpet / flugelhorn), Ron Carter (bass) and the versatile Mickey Roker (drums) are above reproach. And the sound (predictably) recalls that familiar, mellow CTI groove, with Longo's post-modal thinking and playing adding an edge.
Longo, heard mostly on Fender Rhodes throughout, varies mood and tempo enough to hold attention (or not divert it when something else is going on). There's the "waka-waka" groove of the title track, the churning "Funkia," the easy funk of "900 Shares Of The Blues," the slow blues of "Ocean Of His Might," the post-bop of the mostly acoustic "Magic Number" and the surprisingly invigorating Latin take on the otherwise sappy "Windmills Of Your Mind." Longo shines brightest at slower tempos, like the ballad "Summer's Gone," where he unplugs and lets Farrell glide on soprano and Brecker takes a muscular turn on flugelhorn. Both Les McCann's "Samia" and Gillespie's "Ole For The Gypsies," veer too closely to Chick Corea / Return To Forever formulas, but neither are they without their charm.
Like A Thief In The Night, newly available on a well-distributed low budget label, has aged quite nicely and holds appeal for today's easy-groove crowd and jazz folk who like a little more meat in their diet.
Tracks:900 Shares Of The Blues, Like A Thief In The Night, Ocean Of His Might, Magic Number, Summers Gone, El Moode Grande, Ole For The Gypsies, Samia, Funkia, Windmills Of Your Mind.
Personnel: Mike Longo: piano and Fender Rhodes; George Davis: guitar; Joe Farrell: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Randy Brecker: trumpet and flugelhorn; Ron Carter: electric and acoustic bass; Mickey Roker: drums; Ralph MacDonald or Potato Valde z: percussion.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.