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Bunch, Pizzarelli & Leonhart: New York Swing

Mike Neely By

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Bunch, Pizzarelli & Leonhart: New York Swing New York Swing is an exciting live trio recording featuring top-notch musicianship in an inspired performance. This is not "a pretty good recording for a live recording," this is an excellent recording, period. If you are not familiar with pianist John Bunch, this recording will place a new flicker in your musical sky. He is the musical leader of this threesome that includes ace guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and an impressive Jay Leonhart on bass. Both Bunch and Leonhart have long been revered players on the New York jazz scene. This recording will demonstrate why.

Bunch and Leonhart are both known for being able to play masterfully in any style. For this session, they have settled into swing bringing to the style a savvy regard for the possibilities of the music. New York Swing is sophisticated swing. This music often flows in long intertwining lines, the responsive play among the three is multi-layered and complex. Much credit should go to Leonhart who plays an earthy, vigorous bass, presenting a traditional sound along the lines of Milt Hinton. The energy and precision that he brings to the session is inseparable from its success: a drummer certainly isn’t missed while the instrumentation helps to bring forward Pizzarelli’s acoustic guitar sound.

Bucky Pizzarelli is one of those musicians who is hardly in need of an introduction; he’s been a plucker of so much good jazz over the years. But with this trio he gets to stretch out with long, swing style solos, a special treat for Pizzarelli fans, including this one. John Bunch has an intense, honed style with bright technique; he’s the driving wheel conceptually behind this session with his darting intelligence and subtle accompaniment. He pushes Pizzarelli as they exchange intricate solos and accompaniments above Leonhart’s full-bodied bass. The guitar/piano interaction is a particular pleasure with the rhythm guitar chops of Mr. Pizzarelli, and Mr. Bunch’s classy comping.

Highlights of this long session include the opening Benny Goodman/Lionel Hampton composition "Till Tom Special." This cut sets the tone, and tips a collective hat to one of the group’s influences. The unison lines between Bunch and Pizzarelli are marvelous. All three musicians contribute concise solos with a sense of style and collaborative awareness. Throughout Leonhart’s bass is like a big wave swell, raising the level of the action.

Each track on this recording is worth continual listening. This is great live jazz from an exceptional trio. If you’re not familiar with these musicians, then New York Swing is a recording that will introduce you to three of the best playing at the top of their game. Highly recommended.


Track Listing: Till Tom Special; All Too Soon; Benny

Personnel: John Bunch, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; and Jay Leonhart on bass.

Title: New York Swing | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Chiaroscuro Records


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