To apprehend the essence of Strollin'
, listeners need look no further than this superb new album's picture-perfect name. Even when burning rubber, the four maestros in this co-op quartet leave the impression that they are simply strollin' through the changes of eleven well-chosen tunes, seldom working up a sweat as they breathe radiant life into each of them. There is no nominal leader here, nor is there a need for one when four musicians of this caliber are seated together. Drummer Reid Hoyson
is the producer so he gets to keep time while the others calmly tend to their business, making sure that no nuance is overlooked and that every note counts.
This is especially true of the solos, every one of which is a model of thoughtful design and exquisite taste. Nothing that hasn't been done before, it's true, but all too seldom performed at such a consistently impressive level. Harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens
surely needs no introduction to jazz enthusiasts, nor does organist Tony Monaco
, while guitarist Mark Lucas
, even though lesser known outside his native Pittsburgh, need make no apology for his ad libs, which are as bright and resourceful as any. Hoyson solos only once, trading eights on the session's lone blazer, Monaco's "Aglio e Olio," and acquits himself quite well.
The quartet opens with the first of three jazz standards, Charlie Parker
's lyrical "Yardbird Suite" (the others are Horace Silver
's "Strollin'" and Thad Jones
' "A Child Is Born"). Besides "Aglio," Monaco wrote "Happy Sergio" and "Roz da Cat," Lucas "A Room Above," Meurkens "Mundell's Mood," "Slidin'" and the closing "Mean Dog Blues." The lone standard is Don Raye & Gene de Paul's "You Don't Know What Love Is." Even if these gentlemen were not so proficient, the group's unusual instrumentation would no doubt serve to keep matters interesting. As it is, they turn "interesting" into "irresistible" on every number. If you fancy Strollin'
in pleasant company, these ardent maestros may well give you a walk to remember.
Yardbird Suite; A Room Above; Strollin'; You Don't Know What Love Is; Mundell's Mood; Happy
Sergio; A Child Is Born; Aglio e Olio; Slidin'; Roz Da Cat; Mean Dog Blues.