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Time and time again, the Manhattan Bop Police have claimed that a jazz album isn't legitimate unless it is recorded in the 212 area code. But if that's true, why did so many jazz heavyweights — from Dexter Gordon to Bud Powell — spend so much time living and recording in Europe? Why have so many important jazz indies (Steeplechase, Storyville, Owl, Black Lion, Timeless, among countless others) had European addresses? The fact is that if you're a serious jazz connoisseur, your CD collection is probably full of recordings that were made in Europe. Ray Brown certainly spent plenty of time performing overseas; Ludwigsburg, Germany, in fact, is where Brown recorded Summerwind, a 1980 session that finds the acoustic bassist forming a quartet with tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin (one of the reasons jazz musicians are proud to be from Chicago), pianist Monty Alexander, and British drummer Martin Drew. This hard-swinging combination of American, Jamaican, and British improvisers enjoys a strong rapport on a diverse program that ranges from Ray Charles' "Hard Times" to pianist John Lewis' "Delaunay's Dilemma" to the title track (a song that is closely identified with Frank Sinatra). The inclusion of a song associated with Ol' Blue Eyes should come as no surprise to admirers of Alexander, who has never made a secret of his passion for Sinatra's legacy. Nor has Alexander made a secret of his love of R&B; one of the highlights of this CD is a piano trio performance of the Crusaders' "Street Life" (which Griffin is absent from). Although the Crusaders are primarily an instrumental jazz group, they enjoyed a major R&B hit in 1979 when they featured singer Randy Crawford on "Street Life"; on Summerwind, however, the tune works nicely as an acoustic bop/soul-jazz instrumental. This rewarding CD is well worth searching for.
Born: 13 October 1926 in Pittsburgh, PA
Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s
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