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Pianoless Quartet. The Los Angeles Jazz Quartet is a guitar trio plus reeds, consisting of Larry Koonse on guitar, Chuck Manning on tenor and soprano saxophones, and Darek Oleszkiewicz on bass, and Kevin Tullius on drums. They play a straight-ahead brand of jazz that is very accessible and mainstream. Of the 10 recent Naxos Jazz releases, this is the most readily absorbable.
Bright and Sparkling. This disc, as with all of the other Naxos Jazz releases, is impeccably recorded. The cymbals and guitar sound sharp and superbly defined. The bass is appropriately round without being muddy. The saxophones are polished with no reverb. The mix is very fine, with no one instrument dominating the sonic terrain.
Compositions. There is only one standard on this disc, Jerome Kern's "Dearly Beloved." The remainder of the compositional duties are divided among Koonse, Oleszkiewicz, and Tullius. The songs are tastefully composed and arranged and range from the hot ("Look To The East") to the ethereal ("Maru's Dream"). The use of the guitar as the center provides the overall ensemble sound with a softer, suppler texture than would be true of a piano-based band. This music reminds me of Alan Broadbent if he were a guitarist.
Ariadne auf Naxos Redux. Naxos is off to a famous start with their first two rounds of releases on Naxos Jazz. I agree with Gramophone 's Roger Thomas when he said of this second wave of Naxos Jazz releases, "...a retail price of [$5.99] for beautifully recorded original material once again returns me to the view that there's simply no good reason for not buying all four or these discs." The other discs in this second wave of releases are the Umo Jazz Orchestra, Umo Jazz Orchestra ; James Zollar, Soaring with Bird ; and Niko Schauble, On the Other Hand (all reviewed this month in these pages).
Track Listing: Look To The East; Reality; Into The Dark; Sessions With Garrin; Because There Is You; Getting Around; Dirge; Dearly Beloved; Maru's Dream; Fosselman's; Oslo.
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.