Mike Longo, who studied piano with Oscar Peterson
and served for a number of years as Dizzy Gillespie
's pianist and music director, brings that experience and more to Sting Like a Bee
, the follow-up to his well-received trio session from 2007, Float Like a Butterfly
(Consolidated Artists Productions). While there's a different backup crew this time, it would be hard to envision a more virtuosic or compatible duo than bassist Bob Cranshaw
and drummer Lewis Nash
. Playing with Longo for the first time after only one rehearsal, their symmetry is truly remarkable.
Among other delights, Longo salutes his mentor, Peterson, with a medley of songs from the memorable Leonard Bernstein / Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical, West Side Story, and closes the album with a tantalizing solo recital of Dizzy Gillespie's polyrhythmic "Kush." Even though he has technique to burn, Longo took his cue from Diz and learned what notes not to play. There are no Peterson-style pyrotechnics here, simply a series of lovely melodies played with warmth and perception. On the other hand, "simply" can't even begin to cover the scope of Longo's expertise, as what he engenders is the antithesis of simple.
Cranshaw and Nash are Longo's partners in every respect, not only providing a cozy rhythmic and harmonic cushion for his fanciful sorties but also soloing superbly when called upon to do so. Among the pleasant surprises are slow and sensual readings of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" and Kurt Weill's "Speak Low," Herbie Hancock's lyrical "Bedtime Story," Longo's bop-ish, Charlie Parker-inspired "Bird Seed" and his blues-drenched salute to Milt Jackson, "Checked Bags." Rounding out the charming program are Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil" and "Dance Cadaverous," Clifford Brown's "Daahoud," the Latin-style "Morning" and Longo's plaintive "Someone to Love."
Piano trio albums these days are, as the saying goes, a dime a dozen. On the other hand, one couldn't go wrong placing a wager on Mike Longo's caustic Sting Like a Bee.
Speak No Evil; Love for Sale; Daahoud; Tell Me a Bedtime Story; Someone to Love; West Side Story medley; Dance Cadaverous; Morning; Speak Low; Bird Seed; Checked Bags; Kush.
Mike Longo: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.