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Timeless is certainly an apt title for this rare release from Chicago-based pianist Bob Acri. The 83-years young Acri is a journeyman in the truest sense, having spent decades as "the man at the piano" for television networks, radio stations, recording sessions and nightclubs across the country (he was the staff pianist with the ABC/NBC network orchestra at the age of 17). Over the years he has played with luminaries like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat "King" Cole, Lester Young, Barbara Streisand and Woody Herman. But as Timeless shows, Acri has been squirreling away compositions of his own between gigs and sporadic visits to the studio. Maybe not 80 year's worth of songs, but wonderful songs nonetheless.
Possessing a feather-light right hand and a canny rhythmic sense, Acri serves up the supper club blues with cool precision on songs like "RB Blues," "Chromabluze," "Bob's Blues" and "J&B Blues." Acri spins off one smooth solo after another and guitarist Ted Schmuldt matches his inspiration with a steady swing and bluesy chord changes. The telepathy between the two isn't limited to the blues, either. Hypnotic lullabies like "Sleep Away" and "Lonely Lonely Girl" benefit from their intuitive call-and-response, as does the classical waltz of "Fugue."
Bob Acri's biggest strength, though, is creating melodies that feel...well...timeless. Songs like "Tribute To Buddy" and the infectiously breezy "Wake Robin" call to mind memorable Billy Taylor, Nat "King" Cole or Teddy Wilson compositions. It's a feeling of yesteryear that is helped considerably by the sensitivity of Acri's sons Jim and Bob on drums and percussion and the graceful lines emanating from Scot Mason's acoustic bass. It appears that time indeed stands still for Bob Acri. With Timeless, he's created a special recording and one that continues to reward with repeated listenings.
On the web: www.bobacri.com
Track Listing: Tribute To Buddy/Lonely Lonely Girl (solo)/R.B. Blues/Sleep Away/Wake Robin/Chromabluze (solo) /Linda Rose/Guess Who/Lonely Lonely Girl/Bossa Nova Viejo/Fugue/J & B Blues/Bob's Blues/Sleep Away (solo)
Personnel: Bob Acri, piano; Bob Acri, Jr., drums and percussion; Jim Acri, drums; Ted Schmuldt, guitar; Scott Mason, acoustic bass.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.