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Centerpiece: Live At the Blue Note 9 (feat. Harry "Sweets" Edison and Junior Mance)

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Album Review

Basie-style blues and swing are the foundation of this amiable live set from 1995. This is no surprise, given Al Grey's and Harry "Sweets" Edison's work with the Count — Grey most notably from 1957-1961 and Edison from 1938-1950. From that base, though, the two take divergent paths here. Renowned though he is for his brassy bravado and skill with the plunger mute, Grey seems too firmly planted in an earlier era, so much so that his playing can come across as nostalgic routines. It is actually elder statesman Edison (at 79, Grey's senior by almost a decade), who — still working within the swing ethic — creates some fresh sparks. His warm and slippery tone, technical finesse, and improvisational skills yield a choice handful of timeless statements. Rounding out the front line, Jerome Richardson plays well but his tenor saxophone sounds thin in the mix (Richardson is the only one who gets this treatment; otherwise the sound is quite good). In the rhythm section, pianist Junior Mance, working from a more boppish perspective, injects some drive and harmonic spice into the performances. Bassist Ben Brown and drummer Bobby Durham slug away in classic style and also get in a couple of credible solos each. Most of the music follows a predictable course, with some noteworthy exceptions. These include an energetic romp on "Lester Leaps In"; Barry Harris' "Nascimento," a bossa nova with a welcome flute solo from Richardson; and Edison's title track, a song popularized in versions by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and, later, by Joni Mitchell.


Born: 06 June 1925 in Aldie, VA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Al Grey's trademark phrases and often humorous use of the plunger mute long made him quite distinctive. After getting out of the service, he was with the orchestras of Benny Carter (1945-1946), Jimmie Lunceford (1946-1947), Lucky Millinder, and Lionel Hampton (off and on during 1948-1953). Grey was a well-featured soloist with the classic Dizzy Gillespie globetrotting orchestra during 1956-1957 (taking an exciting solo at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival on a blazing version of "Cool Breeze"). He was...
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Centerpiece: Live At the Blue Note 9 (feat. Harry "Sweets" Edison and Junior Mance), Al Grey
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