This fourth volume in a series of recordings saluting and promoting the music of trumpeter Carl Saunders is every bit as sophisticated and attractive as its predecessors. Guitarist Larry Koonse leads the way through a dozen songs with supreme style and grace, comfortably placing this collection right next to earlier Saunders sets helmed by flutist Sam Most, trombonist Scott Whitfield, and pianist Roger Kellaway.
Koonse, fronting a first-rate quartet filled out by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Tom Warrington, and drummer Joe LaBarbera, is in prime form throughout. Relaxed and focused all at once, he brings depth and clarity to these compositions while highlighting a synergy between sympathetic souls. Opening on the rhythmically-hinged "Flim Flam," this crew immediately finds its collective footing by making the hits and turning toward swing. Then "A Poor Man's Mister Evans" makes an appearance, highlighting the chemistry between Koonse and Nelson while saluting Bill Evans.
From there, many an angle of Saunders' work is given its due. The chipper side of his personality comes to the fore on "Do Be Do Be Do" and "Admired." Lyrical quietude wins out on "A Ballad For Now" and the calmly waltzing "Another Side Of Her." Explorations of an essential form and color give shape to "Baby Blues" and "Could Be The Blues." And straight-eighth sway catches the breeze and the ear on "Speaking Softly." No matter the matter, Koonse and company rise to the occasion. When you place this man's guitar and bandmates against Saunders' music, it's simply class on class.
Flim Flam; A Poor Man's Mister Evans; Do Be Do Be Do; A Ballad For Now; Admired; Another Side Of Her;
Baby Blues; Speaking Softly; Diddy Bop; Hipnicity; Dark Blanket; Could Be The Blues.
Larry Koonse: guitar; Josh Nelson: piano; Tom Warrington: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums.