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The Chad Eby Quartet: The Sweet Shel Suite

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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For those who might not know him from his most famous written works, "The Giving Tree" and "Light in the Attic," or from his music, Johnny Cash's hit, "A Boy Named Sue," poet, cartoonist, playwright and Grammy®-winning musician, Shel Silverstein was about as unique and talented an artist as they come. Ironically, some of his best work was first published in a magazine definitely not for kids—Playboy. With The Sweet Shel Suite, saxophonist Chad Eby pays artist-to-artist tribute, leading a slick piano-less quartet over tunes inspired by Shel's poesy.

The recording delivers nine Eby original compositions, each of which is inspired by a particular Silverstein poem. Throughout, the musical stylings of the leader and his team work in perfect symmetry with the poetic concept. "Lester (The Wish-Waster)" a rather Monk-ish, strolling theme (shading Lester Young's "Lady Be Good" and Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments") launches the date with some slick soloing by both Eby and firebrand trumpeter, Brandon Lee. Both frontliners work brotherly with the fine underpinning support of Steve Haines and Daniel Faust . And, both Eby and Lee slyly acknowledge their roots with a "just for a kick" well-worn Bop lick.

Eby, who has a long recording, performance and jazz education resume, has the perfect compositional and improvisational approach here. He plays with a slick modern style, terrific energy ("Ourchestra," "Ickle Me, Tickle Me, Too") and, as you might expect in this realm—humor. His are thoughtful, angular improvisational nuggets which flow endlessly, resulting in surprises galore. Partner Lee buys in completely into the approach with a robust, engaging sound and an improvisational flair vaguely reminiscent of Booker Little. The sentimental ballad, "Years from Now, When I'm Gone" (introed beautifully by Haines) and "Masks" (with blues colorings from Eby) are textural gems. "Falling Up" is an Art Blakey-esque inside-out Hard Bop effort with Eby's sax and Lee's trumpet blowing heat. "The Dance of the Shoes" gives Faust a "Cute"-like showcase to superbly dance with Eby's soprano and Lee's muted horn.

While Silverstein's works were threaded with endearing themes and classic ideas a la Aesop, the musical material and performances here stand brilliantly on their own. The Sweet Shel Suite is as intelligent, adult, involving and imaginative as it gets. It's quite apparent that there's plenty of light in Eby and his playmates' "attic."

Track Listing: Lester (The Wish-Waster); The Long Haired Boy; Ourchestra; Years From Now,When I'm Gone; Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, Too; Masks; Falling Up; The Clock Man; The Dance of the Shoes.

Personnel: Chad Eby: saxophones; Brandon Lee: trumpet; Steve Haines: bass; Daniel Faust: drums

Title: The Sweet Shel Suite | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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