Les DeMerle

Cookin' at the Corner, Vol. 1

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Recorded at a club in Hilton Head, Les DeMerle puts together an extensive set of standards for a jumping instrumental trio with the inclusion, from time to time, of singer Bonnie Eisele. Though there is a pair of original compositions from pianist Michael Levine, the vast majority of the album hails from the American songbook and slightly later jazz and bossa classics. The songs are largely nothing you haven't heard before (of course, that's why they're standards), but the playing is good. This is what you expect from a good jazz club. It's not the quiet, smoky variety that comes to mind with torch singers, it's the sound of a trio that's genuinely happy to be playing and have the chops to keep up with faster tempos and keep pumping out energy (largely courtesy of DeMerle's pounding drums). DeMerle is the cornerstone of the group, creating the musical direction with his powerful rhythm but also providing capable vocals for the catchy, tongue-in-cheek "Bennie's from Heaven," among others. Levine alternates between exquisite comping behind DeMerle or Eisele as the case calls for, and his own frontline playing with just the right amount of bounce to work with the rest of the group while creating a little bit of separation from the department store piano players who play similar pieces so often. Eisele has a strong voice, but tempers it to fit into the role of torch singer for the softer passages (in "Stardust," for example). Overall, the Cookin at the Corner, Vol. 1 doesn't break any new ground in jazz club performance, but it does provide an excellent group a platform to play some classic compositions with their own jumping, cooking twists. Great performances all around.

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