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The legendary humorist and talk show host Steve Allen has also authored nearly 8,000 tunes during his celebrated lifetime. Now in his 70’s Allen must be overjoyed with the winning formula represented on this classy and at times – stunning – recording titled, No Laughing Matter – The Bob McChesney Quartet Plays Steve Allen. Here, trombonist Bob McChesney, pianist Matt Harris, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Dick Weller elucidate and to a large extent, reinvent ten Allen compositions as the overall results are often astounding and beguiling! Allen, the Renaissance man has amassed a rather large body of work that represents a relatively expansive scope, whether it be Dixieland, Swing, Blues, Theatrical or glib and humorous pieces that serve as vehicles for his witty recitations and prose. With this new release, the Bob McChesney Quartet take Allen under their collective wing so to speak and perform with vigor, passion and fire as if Allen had written these pieces with this band in mind. From the onset it is most apparent that McChesney and co. rise above and beyond the call of duty as they pay dutiful homage to Allen’s well-known affinities for, sentiment, congenial innocence and memorable melodies.
Bob McChesney exhibits his amazing technical prowess by performing rapid Bop-ish notes in quadruple time atop the bang-up and swiftly swinging rhythmic support on the opener, “Meet Me Where They Play The Blues”. On this piece, the band launch the proceedings in forward motion with a few bars of dream-laden Blues lines, while subsequently pulling out the stops with some hard-driving and fierce grooves that will most assuredly grab the listener’s attention. These are consummate professionals with a mission in mind as they generate lush lyricism on Allen’s sentimental yet alluring composition, “Time”. “Road Rage” is pure post-Bop led by McChesney’s commanding presence and authoritative articulation of the strong melody line amid stinging rhythms and shifting crosscurrents. Again, McChesney’s impossibly fast; disciplined, clear-toned and concise delivery is utterly mind-boggling while seldom if ever, missing a note! Yet, this is not all about chops as McChesney and his counterparts perform with emotion and great depth. The band turn Allen’s “Steve’s Blues” into a vivacious blues/swing romp as the rhythm section kick matters into overdrive with sterling interplay, sharpshooter-style precision and hearty soloing.
No Laughing Matter -The Bob McChesney Quartet Plays Steve Allen is clearly top-shelf stuff as the venerable Steve Allen must be proud of these lads! Besides the truly motivated and passionate performances from the ensemble, McChesney’s quick-witted maneuvers and soul-searching delivery is flat out, mesmerizing! Without a doubt, Bob McChesney is one of the finest trombonists this writer has ever heard as No Laughing Matter is to be taken quite seriously! Highly recommended. * * * * *
Bob McChesney; Trombone: Matt Harris; Piano: Trey Henry; Bass: Dick Weller; 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.