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When jazz aficionados get together to talk about best albums of the year, seminal recordings, top tenor players or other similar heavy matters, there's little chance that Relaxing with Charlie May come up. But when these same people want to throw off the cares and woes of the day, they could very well pull this album from the shelf, kick off their shoes, pour a drink, sit back and relax with Charlie, his tenor and his fellow musicians for more than fifty minutes of seductive sax playing. Although this is his first album as a leader, May has been around for quite a while making a splash on the Colgate Comedy Hour at the tender age of 16. After playing with the likes of Al Hirt and Pete Fountain as well as fronting his own band in Las Vegas, May migrated to the vibrant jazz scene of the Pacific Northwest where he continues to perform.
The saxophone playing on this album is mellow, mature and blusey. Out of the Lester Young, rather than the Coleman Hawkins, school with an exceptional sensitivity to the melody line, May wends his way through twelve of the more mellifluous entries in the Great American Songbook. At the same time, May's sax has enough of a bite to to keep your attention as on "When Sunny Gets Blue." Several arrangements sound like a tenor sax would working with the George Shearing Quartet as both Jack Perciful and Gaylord Jones' pianos are similar to Shearing's. The guitars of Jay Roberts and John Vineet, sound at times like long time Shearing quartet vibe player, Emil Richard. The rhythm section of Larry Holloway and Greg Williamson, also help recreate that Shearing sound. And one hears a bit of Plas Johnson coming through on "Black Coffee" and "Sweet and Lovely." John Vineet and his Joe Pass-like guitar gets solo time on "Black Coffee". In contrast, Jay Roberts' guitar leans more toward the Tal Farlow school as he takes an extended solo on "Summertime." The 1940 Ned Washington/Hoagy Carmichael classic "The Nearness of You" is one of the highlights of the album with Perciful's piano and Vineet's guitar intermingling with the melancholy tenor for an impassioned reading. The arrangements were done by Gaylord Jones and he does a fine job in creating a set of charts which allows May to approach this music on his own terms. This is an album of good music and is recommended.
Tracks:Black Coffee; I'll Remember April; Moonlight in Vermont; Sweet and Lovely; Summertime; God Bless the Child; Someone to Watch Over Me; Willow Weep for Me; When Sunny Gets Blue; My One and Only Love; The Nearness of You; That's All
Personnel: Charlie May - Tenor Saxophone; Jack Perciful, Gaylord Jones - Piano; Jay Roberts, John Vineet - Guitars; Larry Holloway - Bass; Greg Williamson - Drums