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Album Review

Hod O'Brien delights his Blues Alley audience with this live trio performance. The pianist is joined by bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington (two of the most in-demand musicians for recording dates, both of whom are regular collaborators with O'Brien) for a program that mixes standards with jazz compositions that aren't heard very often. O'Brien is a creative improviser who never loses sight of the melody, with Drummond's driving bass and Washington's crisp attack fueling him. All too often, "Tangerine" is played without much imagination, but this trio makes it sound brand-new instead of decades old. O'Brien is at the top of his game with a rollicking treatment of "Just in Time." The trio gets into a solid groove with a jaunty take of Joe Zawinul's "Frog's Legs" (a bluesy tribute to Ben Webster, with whom Zawinul shared an apartment for a time after arriving in the U.S.), following it with an elegant arrangement of Freddie Redd's obscure ballad "Thespian." He makes sure that the spotlight shines on his sidemen. Drummond's marvelous solo is the centerpiece of "Lullaby of the Leaves," while Washington's inventive drum breaks alternate with O'Brien following the bass solo. Pete Malinverni, another fine pianist who has recorded for Reservoir, contributed the insightful liner notes. Highly recommended.

Blues Alley First Set, Hod O'Brien
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