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Another well-upholstered album of contemporary straight-ahead Jazz that gives absolutely no cause for complaint but fewer reasons than one might expect to become excited. Its title, Never Too Late, is an appropriate metaphor for tenor Dave Riekenberg's long-overdue debut as leader of his own quartet after years on the road with Woody Herman's orchestra and Blood, Sweat & Tears and many more gigging around New York City and performing as a woodwind specialist on Broadway. Riekenberg, known as "Bopper," is a resourceful and articulate stylist with a pleasing sound who knows how to swing at any tempo. He is accompanied on this studio date by three of New York's most reputable sidemen, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Dennis Mackrel. Davis, a consistently engaging soloist, keeps Riekenberg on his improvisational toes while Weiss and Mackrel see to it that the group's rhythmic momentum never wavers. Everyone is a model of harmonious self-assurance, and much of the album rides smoothly along on a good-natured but otherwise unexceptional cushion of purposeful competence. Its strong points, as is usually the case, are the standards "By Myself," "For All We Know" and "Stella by Starlight," on the last of which Riekenberg discards the tenor to show his proficiency on flute. Riekenberg wrote "Never Too Late" and "Oops," neither of which poses a threat to those tunes already mentioned. Completing the program are Joe Henderson's breezy samba, "Serenity," Tom Guarna's wistful "Reunion," Billy Eckstine's lyrical "I Want to Talk About You" and a medium-tempo cooker with enticing melody by Sonny Rollins, "Why Don't I," on which Riekenberg acknowledges his debt to Sonny, as he does Henderson on "Serenity." Never Too Late is a largely impressive first outing for Riekenberg but one's praise must be tempered by the thought that neither he nor his companions is able to produce the sort of prolonged creative spark that might prompt one to append the prefix "extra" to "ordinary."
Contact: NY Jam Records, 567 10th St., Brooklyn, NY 11215 (phone 718?788?8032; fax 718?499?4080; e-mail email@example.com; web site, www.nyjam.com).
Track Listing: Never Too Late; By Myself; For All We Know; Serenity; Reunion; Why Don't I; I Want to Talk About You; Stella by Starlight (62:05).
Personnel: Dave Riekenberg, tenor saxophone, flute; Xavier Davis, piano; Doug Weiss, bass; Dennis Mackrel, drums.
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.