Italian-born Pianist Roberto Magris, never one to let labels stand in the way of tasteful and invigorating music, skates from funk to fusion, blues to bop and even ballads on this prismatic album with guest alto Sam Reed, a longtime trouper on the Philadelphia scene who cut his musical teeth with the likes of trumpeter Ted Curson, pianist Bobby Timmons and the redoubtable Heath brothers (Albert, Percy and especially saxophonist Jimmy). Reed, now well into his seventies, holds his own with a group of relative youngsters that includes Magris, trombonist Kendall Moore, bassist Dominique Sanders, drummer Brian Steever, tenor saxophonist Steve Lambert (two tracks) and conguero Pablo Sanhueza (four).
In fact, some of the more rewarding numbers are those on which Reed is given suitable space in which to display his still limber chops (Bird's "Quasimodo," Lee Morgan's "Stopstart," Magris' funky "Ready for Reed"). Magris moves from piano to Hammond B3 organ on "Ready" and the hard-driving opener, Gene Ammons' "Jungle Strut." Moore proves to be an able soloist as well, shining on several tunes, while Sanders and Steever (with occasional help from Sanhueza) keep the rhythmic pulse strong. For his part, Magris shows time and again that he is a perceptive soloist on piano and organ. Besides "Ready for Reed," Magris also wrote "The Swagger," which definitely lives up to its name.
Ellington's "Love You Madly," taken at an uncharacteristically brisk tempo, precedes Billy Strayhorn's "Paris Blues Revisited." Also on the menu are Rodgers and Hart's "I Married an Angel," the standard "Be My Love" and the charming "Sweet Jenny Lou." As is often the case on Magris' CDs, the music is followed by an "Audio Notebook" moderated by JMood Records' Paul Collins, and this one is a delight, as Reed shows a razor-sharp memory in recalling his early days as a sideman and leader in Philly. Reed's playing (would that there were even more of it) is another treat, one that should be savored while this canny veteran is still around and able to share his sizable talents.
Jungle Strut; The Swagger; Love You Madly; Paris Blues Revisited; Quasimodo; I Married an Angel; Ready for Reed; Sweet Jenny Lou; Be My Love; Stopstart; Audio Notebook.
Sam Reed: alto sax; Roberto Magris: piano, Hammond B3 (1, 7); Kendall Moore: trombone; Steve Lambert: tenor sax (6, 7); Dominique Sanders: bass; Brian Steever: drums; Pablo Sanhueza: congas (1, 2, 7, 8).
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