With the impressive Two Cigarettes in the Dark, Denver-based saxophonist Keith Oxman delivers what is most probably one of the finest albums on the contemporary jazz scene today. Imagine being in a dark room where you see nothing and suddenly two cigarettes are lit; naturally your attention will be focused on the cigarettes and the smoke they produce. On this album, the two burning sticks are Oxman and legendary sax man Houston Person together lighting-up the place.
The call-and-response between these gentlemen is nothing short of fantastic. The leaders perform a blend of originals and uncommon standards from the likes of Hank Mobley and Johnny Griffin among others. Rounding out the cast of characters are pianist Jeff Jenkins (a frequent Oxman sideman), bassist Ken Walker, Paul Romaine on drums and Annette Murrell providing the vocals on two songbook ballads.
From listening to the album, an immediate observation is that every tune on tap is simply a keeper, beginning with the Frank Loesser opening salvo "I've Never Been In Love Before," followed by the Oxman original "Voss is Boss," where Oxman catches fire on one audacious solo after another. The mood is quite different on the light ballad "Everything Happens to Me," boosted by the sultry vocals from Murrell, with both leaders playing soft and tender on one beautiful rendition of this time-honored standard.
The title track serves as a perfect vessel for showcasing the talents of the leaders while "Bossa for Baby," their most ambitious performance on an eight-minute Brazilian-tinged wonder, is supported by Romaine and Jenkins on piano. Oxman goes it alone on three other tracks ("Murphy's Law," "Wild Chill," and the finale "Murrellancholy" a tribute to the album's singer).
Speaking of the singer, she graces the standard "Crazy He Calls Me," as the boys swing on the Griffin tune "Sweet Sucker," putting the finishing touches to a seriously boppish session of jazz by Oxman, Person and crew, making Two Cigarettes in the Dark" a musical statement to look out for.
I've Never Been In Love Before; Voss is Boss; Everything Happens to Me; Two Cigarettes In the Dark; Bossa for Baby; Murphy's Law Impacts L.E.A.P.; Crazy He Calls Me; Wind Chill; Sweet Sucker; Murrellancholy.