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Ed Saindon’s approach to the vibraphone is said to be “pianistic,” and he lists as his models James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Fatha Hines, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson, among others. Still sounds like vibes to me — which isn’t by any means displeasing. On the contrary, Saindon is a marvelous technician who swings at any tempo. But his excursion through The Great American Songbook reminds me more of the celebrated swing–era sessions led by Red Norvo or Lionel Hampton than of any of the aforementioned pianists. That’s probably because I’m not a musician and can’t relate to the nuances and subtleties inherent in Saindon’s “pianistic” point of view. No matter — he’s a terrific vibraphonist, which is what is most important. Also significant is Saindon’s admirable choice of sidemen. Swing–based players don’t come much better than Vaché, Peplowski or Barrett, and Wood and Gwin round out a remarkably dependable and productive rhythm section. Group size and instrumentation varies, with Vaché completing the front line on eight selections, Peplowski on three (including a duet with Saindon on “My Funny Valentine”), Barrett on two, and Peplowski/Barrett performing together on three others. No one gains what could be considered the upper hand, as everyone plays marvelously throughout. The material, of course, is quite well–known to everyone on the date (as it should be to most listeners), which would lead one to expect an unblemished performance. That it is. The sundry ensembles also swing freely in the manner of such pre–bop era groups as Goodman, Hampton and others. The flame of swing music may be flickering, but thanks to Saindon and others like him it hasn’t yet gone out. Every colorful chapter in this engaging Songbook is worth perusing many times over.
Track listing: Keepin’ Out of Mischief; Liza; I’m Old Fashioned; Blue Skies; It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing; ’Deed I Do; Body and Soul; Exactly Like You; Summertime; Avalon; You’re My Everything; My Funny Valentine; Come Rain or Come Shine; I Thought About You; Sweet Sue; Topsy (67:12).
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.