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North America Jazz Alliance: The Montreal Sessions

Edward Blanco By

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The North America Jazz Alliance brings together two American and four Canadian musicians to perform the music heard in the nightclubs of the 60s and 70s on The Montreal Sessions. Producer Peter Maxymych further wanted to focus on the accordion-led bands of the era of which, the most famous was that of the late Art Van Damme whose vibes, guitar, bass and drums group, is recreated here. During the 60s Montreal just happened to be home of some of the best jazz venues in the world and seemed a natural for this recording session in capturing the same classic sounds produces by the Van Damme quintet.

Borrowing from the songbooks of legendary composers like Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini, Victor Young and Johnny Mercer just to name a few, the selection of familiar standards makes this an accessible recording of traditional jazz. American accordionist Kenny Kotwitz reprises the Van Damme role here leading the music on the opening "Just One of Those Things" with vibraphonist Steve Hobbs and Canadians, drummer Dave Lang and guitarist Greg Clayton out in front on this piece. Vocalist John Labelle delivers a very smooth performance beginning with his take on "Close Your Eyes" sounding very much like Michael Buble. Labelle is just as impressive on "Dancing In The Dark," and the swinging "Nobody Else But Me."

Taking advantage of a creative arrangement, Kotwitz and Hobbs split the melody choruses on the classic Earl Brent/Matt Dennis tune "Angel Eyes," while the Young standard "Delilah" is the perfect vehicle for Hobbs to take off on, Kotwitz takes the lime light on Mancini's "Charade." There are so many wonderful moments on this album that sampling just one piece will not reveal just how pleasant this recording truly is—every song is a keeper.

Two of the best takes on the program happen to be the last couple of tracks ("Only Trust Your Heart," and "That's All"). This closes a captivating production of light bossa, ballads, a ting of tango and some pop, making The Montreal Sessions a surprisingly tastefull musical experience of accordion/vibes sounds in a classic jazz standard setting forged by the superb play from the North America Jazz Alliance.

Track Listing: Just One Of Those Things; Close Your Eyes; Cute; Oblivion; Angel Eyes; Nobody Else But Me; Delilah; Charade; Dancing In The Dark; It Could Happen To You; Only Trust Your Heart; That's All.

Personnel: Kenny Kotwick: accordion; Steve Hobbs: vibraphone; Greg Clayton: guitar; Dave Laing: drums; Alec Walkington: bass; John Labelle: vocals.

Title: The Montreal Sessions | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Challenge Records


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