This is a moderately pleasant hour or so of easygoing small–group Jazz, but those are shark–infested waters into which pianist Astrid Cowan and her colleagues are diving, and I doubt that pleasant is enough to ensure their survival. Truth is, Summit doesn’t swing nearly as hard or as often as Cowan’s earlier release, Swing Team (Astron 98–001), and she was much better served by that album’s frequently accelerated tempos. While Cowan plays well throughout, the music, as we said, is more pleasant than propulsive. It’s also quite pretty, especially Cowan’s two originals, “Lullaby” and “Beach Comber’s Bounce,” Frank Rosolino’s “Blue Daniel,” Bronislau Kaper’s “Invitation” and Benny Carter’s “When Lights Are Low” (played to a capivating Latin beat). In a review of Swing Team (which, alas, was never published, as the magazine for whom we wrote it went out of business), we remarked that Cowan uses “a two–fisted approach that calls to mind McCoy Tyner, Gene Harris, Benny Green and other fiery, blues–based modernists.” There’s not much of that here, save perhaps on Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and even then she seems unwilling to really let ’er rip. Cowan’s most assertive solo quickens Ray Brown’s toe–tapping “Parking Lot Blues.” The other tracks — Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Look to the Sky,” guitarist Ron Berman’s “The News Is Blues” — are lodged in a similarly slow–paced and melodic groove. Personnel is the same as on Swing Team with Cowan leading a trio on “Lullaby,” “Beach Comber’s Blues” and “Look to the Sky” and trumpeter Jerry Rusch, a quietly capable improviser, making it a quartet the rest of the way. Berman has some nice, mellow solos, as does Simon, but we’d have preferred a few more coals on the fire. Still, if pleasant suits your taste, you’ll find ample nourishment at the Summit.
Contact:Astron Records, P.O. Box 4985, Redondo Beach, CA 90278–4985. Web site, www.astronjazz.com; e–mail [email protected]
The News Is Blues; What Is This Thing Called Love; Lullaby; Beach Comber
Astrid Cowan, piano; Jerry Rusch, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ron Berman, guitar; Richard Simon, bass; Chris Wabich, drums.