Max Bennett

Great Expectations

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Max Bennett is one of those grand, colorful statesmen who display the history of jazz in every stroke and each note that they play. The bassist's early stints with Dizzy and Ella have little to do with the lighthearted direction he has taken in recent years, but with Freeway and now The Maxx Band, he has shown an aggressive will to stay hip and pertinent in the funky waves that exploded after his original involvement with the L.A. Express in the Seventies. On Great Expectations, he and his mates hit their ocean drive stride on the bursting images typified by oh-so-suave titles like "Midnight Cruisin'," but he also guides them through more wistful terrain that has even greater emotional resonance. While Bennett composed and produced the frisky affair, it's really a showcase for his lesser exposed cohorts, most notably saxman Jeff Jorgenson, screaming electric guitarist Brian Price and blues-infused synthesist Rob Whitlock. The ensemble is so fresh and tight that even all-star guest names like old Express partner Tom Scott, Joe Sample and Russ Ferrante don't make the usual impact they enjoy elsewhere. Still, their contributions, particularly Ferrante's gorgeous touch on "The Dancers," adds an appreciable elegance to a long-awaited outing that more than lives up to expectations.

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