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Bob Mamet: London House Blues

Dan Bilawsky By

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Chicago's now defunct London House was one of the great jazz clubs from a bygone era. Stellar talents like pianist Oscar Peterson and vocalist Sarah Vaughan recorded live albums there, and most of jazz's legendary figures, from Dave Brubeck to Bill Evans to Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, passed through at one time or another. On his first release for the Blujazz imprint, Chicago-based pianist Bob Mamet tips his cap to this venue and the other clubs (i.e. Mr. Kelly's, Rick's Cafe Americain, etc.) that kept Chicago's jazz scene jumping in the mid-to-late(r) twentieth century.

London House Blues finds Mamet in fine form, working the trio format with some help from two of the Windy City's most dependable rhythm men—bassist Larry Gray and drummer Paul Wertico. Together they dole out a program centered on classics that speaks with individuality yet doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. No too clever by half twists; no radically altered rewrites on standards; and no labyrinthine, unnecessary metric tricks to be found here. Mamet and his men just play the songs, shading the performances with a dose of their collective perspective. "Take The A Train," for one, retains its core principles but doesn't coast atop a plain old swing beat. "Over The Rainbow" serves as another good example; it's loyal unto itself without being weighed down by the played-out use of sentimentality that often comes hand-in-hand with the song.

The leader's belief in melodic clarity is clear at every turn, but he also sprinkles in reminders that he's not some cocktail pianist running through the oldies. A brief Roger Kellaway-esque pianistic fill on "Someday My Prince Will Come" is but one example of his quickly passing powers of invention. His partners on this journey are equally impressive. Gray proves to be a strong support player, though it's his sawing arco work on "Take The A Train" and his show-stealing spot on Mamet's "Solstice" that prove to be his greatest contributions. And Wertico simply oozes musicality. He helps the group to slightly ratchet up the tempo after the head on the title track, expertly trades solos with Mamet, sets up some songs with classy and fitting drum introductions, and keeps things moving on a steady path.

In a mere forty minutes, London House Blues accomplishes what it sets out to do: it pays proper tribute to another time and place, highlighting the individual and collective skills of these three men in the process.

Track Listing: London House Blues; Someday My Prince Will Come; Take The A Train; Over The Rainbow; Nardis; How My Heart Sings; Blue Bossa; Solstice.

Personnel: Bob Mamet: piano; Larry Gray: bass; Paul Wertico.

Title: London House Blues | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Blujazz Productions


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