the eighth album by celebrated arranger Mark Masters
' superb West Coast-based ensemble, is subtitled "The Alec Wilder Songbook Featuring Gary Smulyan
." Indeed, Smulyan's is an impressive solo voice (but hardly the only one) in an eloquent songbook that appraises eight of Wilder's tasteful compositions, including a pair of his best-known melodies, "Moon and Sand" and "I'll Be Around."
As Masters arranged every number for his hand-picked octet, nothing more need be said about that save that the charts are up to his usual high standard. The musicians, starting with Smulyan, are also first-class, from the splendid front line consisting of trumpeter Bob Summers
, trombonist Dave Woodley
and saxophonists Don Shelton
and Jerry Pinter
to the blue-chip rhythm section: pianist Ed Czach
, bassist Putter Smith
and drummer Kendall Kay
The album opens on a bracing note with the rarely heard yet straight-out pleasing "You're Free," on which Smulyan shows conclusively why he was invited onboard, soloing with warmth and awareness before trading fours with Kay and handing the reins to Czach. The light-hearted "Don't Deny" is no less agreeable, nor is the upbeat waltz "Ellen," which precedes the seductive "Moon and Sand." There is a blues, namely "Baggage Room Blues," which leads to another sunlit swinger, "I Like It Here," and the shadowy title song. The breezy "Lovers and Losers," with its perceptible bow to Miles Davis
' classic Birth of the Cool
sessions, provides a sterling entrée to the urbane finale, "I'll Be Around."
For the record, Smulyan solos on every number, Summers on "Don't Deny," "Baggage Room Blues" and "Lovers and Losers," Woodley on "Ellen," "Lovers" and "I'll Be Around," Shelton on "Blues," "I Like It Here" and "Lovers," Pinter on "Don't Deny," Ellen" and "Lovers," Czach on "You're Free," "Moon and Sand" and "I'll Be Around," Smith on "Moon and Sand" and "Night Talk," Kay on "You're Free." In other words, everyone has his moment (or more) to shine, and no one is less than admirablewhich is a suitable word with which to describe the entire album, as it charms from start to finish.
You’re Free; Don’t Deny; Ellen; Moon and Sand; Baggage Room Blues; I Like It Here; Night Talk; Lovers and Losers; I’ll Be Around.