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Hittin' The Blue Notes, Vol. 1

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Album Review

Harry James band alum Les DeMerle comes out here with his first album since moving into the unknown northern Florida jazz scene. A number of academic players from the Jacksonville region join him for the recording, as does his wife Bonnie on vocals. The album is essentially a tribute to the old Blue Note catalog, culling its songs from the label's archives of primarily soul-jazz and hard bop. The album opens up on a bouncy version of "Just Friends" to set the tone for the rest, then moves into a bluesy rendition of "Let the Good Times Roll" based on a Quincy Jones arrangement (from the Q's Jook Joint album). Fathead Newman's "Movin' On" and Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" continue the blues-based feeling, moving a bit into R&B along the way. Benny Golson's "I Remember Clifford" gives trumpeter Marvin Ferebee some room to stretch out on the flügelhorn for an extended passage or two, showing off some remarkable passion within his execution. The band is temporarily stripped down to a trio for a fast-paced rendition of "If I Were a Bell," where pianist Kevin Wilder can let loose on the melodic lines. Returning to the full sound, a pair of Horace Silver numbers are attacked, still with the tempo set on high, but with the horn section taking the quiet bossa nova as a cue to relax a bit more than on the other tracks. "Filthy McNasty" keeps up the hard bop feel, but with an unseemly bouncing set of lines on vocals and piano together countered only by the horn solos. Wilder gets more space to play on "My Foolish Heart," working well in tandem with the soft bass of Ricky Ravelo. Freddie Hubbard's "First Light" adds a little flute to the mix and brings back a bit of the bossa nova left behind with the Horace Silver pieces, and the album finishes up on the old King Curtis song "More Soul," bringing the entire album full circle to the blues and soul roots it started out with. It's a blues and soul affair more than a jazz album, but it's jazz sensibilities and execution that furnish the house built of blues here. It's a surprisingly good album from a relative unknown in the field.

Hittin' The Blue Notes, Vol. 1, The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band
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