Larry Newcomb Quartet: Live Intentionally!

Jack Bowers By

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New York-based guitarist Larry Newcomb says his latest album was recorded "live"—but don't hold your breath waiting for the sound of applause. As it turns out, the CD was recorded "live" at Tom Tedesco Studios in Paramus, NJ. Using that as a measuring stick, it could be argued that every album is recorded "live" if the sundry musicians are upright and breathing. What Newcomb means is that the session was recorded without benefit of dubbing, splicing, patching or other post-production revisions. Fair enough. We have his word for that.

We also have about forty-five minutes of high-spirited jazz with no discernible blemishes or missteps. That is hardly surprising considering the resumes of those involved. Newcomb and his teammates (pianist Eric Olsen, bassist Dmitri Kolesnik, drummer Jimmy Madison) have logged many years of invaluable experience performing and recording with many of the most well-respected and accomplished jazz musicians in the country, leading one to surmise that miscues are among the least of their worries. Newcomb numbers among his mentors Bucky Pizzarelli, Mark Elf, Pat Martino, Howard Roberts and Randy Johnston. He sounds a little like each of them, a lot like none of them. And even though he says one purpose of recording "live" was to perform "without a safety net," it's clear he doesn't need one, nor do his associates.

Besides leading the ensemble, Newcomb wrote three originals ("Sure Thing," "Instant Water," "Thanks Jack!") to complement the standards "Be My Love," "All the Things You Are," "Stardust" and "Have You Met Miss Jones?," Carla Bley's "Olhos de Gato" and Charlie Parker's "Au Privave." Although "Be My Love" may seem a curious opener, Newcomb and Co. make it work—as a samba. It is here (and elsewhere) that Olsen shows he is a sharp and engaging soloist, while Kolesnik also has a chance to shine. The interplay between Newcomb and Olsen that introduces "All the Things" is delightful, as is the buoyant Shearing-style swing of "Thanks Jack!" The soulful "Sure Thing" and high-kicking "Instant Water" precede Bley's pensive "Olhos de Gato," the irrepressible "Au Privave," the venerable "Stardust" and breezy "Miss Jones," a charming finale if ever there was one.

Even though it may not be "live" in the truest sense of the word (that is, with an audience on hand), Newcomb's album is beyond any doubt a lively and well-designed experience. Listeners won't be left wanting.

Track Listing: Be My Love; All the Things You Are; Thanks Jack!; Sure Thing; Instant Water; Olhos de Gato; Au Privave; Stardust; Have You Met Miss Jones?

Personnel: Larry Newcomb: guitar, arranger; Eric Olsen: piano; Dmitri Kolesnik: bass; Jimmy Madison: drums.

Title: Live Intentionally! | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Essential Messenger Records

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