The album cover says "Mike Melito / Dino Losito Quartet." What it does not say is that drummer Melito and pianist Losito have at their beck-and-call an awesome secret weapon, Philadelphia-based tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna, a phenom from the Lester Young school of elegant swinging whose voice on the horn is as debonair and persuasive as any you are likely to hear. It is hard to imagine while listening to McKenna glide easily through cadences from ballad to barn-burner that he has been at the top of that game for more than six decades and offers not the slightest hint that he is anywhere near ready to slow down or wave a white flag.
While McKenna would give any group a clear head-start, it is up to everyone else to take that ball and run with it, which Melito, Losito and bassist Neal Miner are more than happy to do. They work extremely well together, nailing their cues with ease while giving McKenna a wide comfort zone regardless of mind-set or tempo. Losito is an engaging soloist and unflagging accompanist, while Melito and Miner man the rhythmic ramparts with astuteness and vigor, and solo impressively when called upon. For his part, McKenna shows again and again why his status as a world-class saxophone master is so well-deserved; no emotion is beyond his awareness, no nuance small enough to escape notice. He simply dives headlong into every tune and lays bare the best it has to offer.
To show his versatility, McKenna wrote the sunny opener, "You're It!," an enticing appetizer on a flavorful menu that encompasses handsome original compositions by George Coleman ("Blondie's Waltz"), Cedar Walton ("I'll Let You Know"), John Lewis ("Afternoon in Paris") and Wes Montgomery ("Fried Pies"), the standards "These Foolish Things," "What a Difference a Day Makes" and "You've Changed," and one semi-standard ("For Heaven's Sake"). Translations and rhythmic accents are spot-on, with a special nod to "What a Difference a Day Makes," whose accelerated tempo suits it perfectly and elicits sharp solos from McKenna, Losito and Melito.
As quartet sessions go, You're It! is well above the norm, as the norm does not often have someone of Larry McKenna's stature responsible for the lion's share of the harmonic output. Good as he is, however, McKenna must rely on his teammates to balance the scales, a task they not only accept but relish. Make no mistake, this is Melito and Losito's quartet, but it certainly isn't harmed by the imposing presence of McKenna and Miner.
You're It; These Foolish Things; Blondie's Waltz; What A Difference A Day Makes; I'll Let You Know;
For Heavens Sake; Afternoon In Paris; You've Changed; Fried Pies.
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