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Every now and then you come across an album which falls into that "comfortable as an old pair of slippers" zone. The music here is pretty much laid back and relaxed, transporting the listener to a smoky lounge as a small group plays good solid straight ahead jazz. Such is the case with pianist Larry Vuckovich's CD, Young at Heart. Vuckovich emigrated from Yugoslavia to San Francisco with his family in 1951 and as a youngster started to hang around the many jazz clubs in business in those days. He was drawn to the music by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Milt Jackson and others he heard. Vuckovich started playing professionally in 1960 and since then has recorded not only as a leader (this is his 8th album) but has played and recorded with the likes of Irene Kral, Mel Torme, Lucky Thompson, Arnette Cobb and many more who have wandered to the city on the bay to perform.
Vuckovich's design is to have the music and arrangements on this album focus on the saxophone of Lester Young within and outside the context of the Count Basie band. Two reed men share the responsibility of evoking the Young sound (which supplements their own creative interpretative skills), Noel Jewkes and Jules Broussard. In addition to the tenor, Jewkes recalls that Young was a master with the clarinet as well while he solos on "Blue and Sentimental" bringing to mind Young's 1938 Count Basie recording. Jewkes also takes up the straight stick on "Sweet Lorraine" where bassist Nat Johnson does a vocal. Broussard is here with a Johnny Hodges -like alto sax, making this track one of the album's highlights. Another notable track on an album of consistently good playing is the title tune "Young at Heart" where Vuckovich's arrangement calls for a medium tempo pace with riffs interspersed among the solos turning this usually dolefully played tune into a bouncing melody. The swinging performance of Charlie Parker's, "Ornithology", recalls that this psalm to bop comes from a favorite swing tune, "How High the Moon". The performance features an energetic tenor sax by Broussard and rarely heard drummer. Dottie Dodgion (Jerry's former wife). This is Dodgion's only appearance as former Basie drummer Harold Jones is on all other cuts. Leading the way is the spare pianistic styling of Larry Vuckovich whose debt to the Basie style is shown with the space he leaves between the chords and his nod to the famous Basie tune-ending coda on such cuts as Neal Hefti's "Why Not". And "why not" add this fine album to your collection.
Track Listing: Why Not; Blue and Sentimental; Jumpin' with Symphony Sid#; She's Just My Size; Besame Macho#; Sweet Lorraine@; Jumpin' at the Woodside; The Man I Love; The Lady's in Love with You#; Young at Heart; Ornithology*#; Sometimes I'm Happy; Lester People#
Personnel: Larry Vuckovich - Piano; Noel Jewkes - Tenor Sax/Clarinet/Flute; Jules Broussard - Tenor & Alto Sax; Harold Jones, Dottie Dodgion* - Drums; Louis Romero - Latin Percussion; Josh Workman, Bob Basa% - Guitar; Nat Johnson - Bass/Vocals@; Buca Necak# - Bass
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.