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Larry Vuckovich hasn't been recorded nearly often enough as a leader since his 1980 Inner City debut Blue Balkan, though the Balkan native's Street Scene is clearly one of his finest efforts. Although he had been using horns on recent projects, Vuckovich decided to put more focus on the piano, opting for what is primarily a trio date with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Akira Tana.
Vuckovich takes a fresh look at several overlooked gems. His approach to the late pianist Sonny Clark's blues, "News For Lulu, adds an infectious Latin introduction to the swaggering hard bop cooker and his dreamy interpretation of the once popular ballad "I'll Wait and Pray would be perfect backing for a vocalist, though one isn't needed. Conga player Hector Lugo is added for several tracks, among them a bubbly Latin setting of Spencer Williams' "I Ain't Got Nobody (taking it far from Fats Waller's comic swing record). Vuckovich transforms "Oh, You Crazy Moon into an intimate, deliberate bolero and "As Time Goes By (from Casablanca) into an infectious mambo. Miles Davis' "Blue in Green, in a lush unaccompanied setting, builds upon the late Bill Evans lyrical interpretations, while the solo "Under Paris Skies (renamed "Under Paris Skies Impressions ) draws from Impressionist composers as well as John Coltrane.
The pianist's originals are of equal interest. The driving post-bop "Dexter's Mode opens the CD with a flourish, showcasing his sidemen at length following his powerful solo. "Blue Bohemia Suite is a commissioned work that blends Slavic and Balkan influences with the blues, beginning as a richly textured ballad before transforming into a breezy bop vehicle with the Latin rhythm of Lugo's congas. "Scandinavian Waltz is an upbeat song that would work as a movie theme for a romantic comedy.
Track Listing: Dexter's Mode; Street Scene; News for Lulu; As Time Goes By Mambo; I'll Wait and Pray; I Ain't Got Nobody;
Blue in Green; Come Rain or Come Shine; Oh, You Crazy Moon; Blue Bohemia Suite; Scandinavian Waltz; It
Could Happen to You; Under Paris Skies Impressions.
Personnel: Larry Vuckovich: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Akira Tana: drums; Hector Lugo: congas (4,6,9,10); Vince Delgado: bongos (4), Egyptian tabla (10).
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.