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Jeff Lashway: Reunion

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Throughout the decades, the bands of trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson were, by very nature, heavily brass and ensemble section oriented. Occasionally, Ferguson's pianists were given the opportunity to shine, launching into extended solo tune introductions or brief solos. Some of those pianists were (or would become) stars or leaders in their own right. They included Mike Abene, Allan Zavod, Pete Jackson, Jaki Byard, Bob James, Christian Jacob and others. Even Chick Corea did a short stint before returning to forever.

With Reunion, his first CD as leader, ex-Ferguson pianist Jeff Lashway steps out—and up—to brilliantly demonstrate that he is an outstanding jazz pianist, composer and leader deserving of wider recognition. Accompanied by an all-star line-up, Lashway and friends deliver ten marvelously entertaining selections. This reunion is an intelligent, involving jazz swingfest.

From über-session drummer Vinnie Colauita's firestarter drum work on Lashway's neat "Get to the Gate," Reunion is a day and night of the cookers. Trumpeter Jim Rotondi impresses heavily throughout with intricate, soulful solo efforts. His sound, both in ensemble and solo areas swings and invites ("The Touch of Your Lips"). Baritone saxophonist Frank Basile has that beautifully muscular approach to his axe. Bassists Richard Drexler and Todd Coolman are just that; they propel.

Colauita, who has performed with everyone from Christina Aguilera to Frank Zappa, drives and solos intelligently, as does drummer John Jenkins. Trombonist John Allred's slide smokes white-hot with Carl Fontana-esque inventiveness ("Doxy"). The addition of vocalist Jimmy Hall, who swings over a "Killer Joe" groove on "Down Here on the Ground" and sears soul on Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," is a nice touch. That tune is part of a medley combined with classics "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" and "Bourbon Street Parade." Lashway, a former and current resident of New Orleans, certainly knows his roots.

Jeff Lashway's playing gives the impression that he draws sounds and wonderfully improvised lines right out from the keyboard. He has that kind of touch and awesome Oscar Peterson-worthy technical chops. With his swing ("One by One"), comping sensitivity ("Quintessence," showcasing the deep sound of Ferguson cohort Jeff Rupert), and soul ("Gingerbread Boy" and the slickly reworked "Airegin"), Lashway rises to this recording occasion and delivers.

The production values and engineering here are A-1. Random Act's donation scenario is also notable.

"Reunion" is a terrifically entertaining, swinging, and most enjoyable CD, the music and its players shining throughout. Hopefully Lashway and his team will reunite again soon.


Track Listing: Get to the Gate; Doxy; Down Here on the Ground; The Touch of Your Lips; The Quintessence; Sweetbop; For NOLA (medley: Louisiana 1927; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; Bourbon St. Parade); One by One; Gingerbread Boy; Airegin.

Personnel: Jeff Lashway: piano; Jim Rotondi: trumpet; John Allred: trombone; Frank Basile: bari sax; Jeff Rupert: tenor sax; Richard Drexler: bass; Todd Coolman: bass; John Jenkins: drums; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Jimmy Hall: vocals.

Title: Reunion | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Random Act Records

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