Ed Shaughnessy

Jazz in the Pocket

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Though Ed Shaughnessy was technically the most famous jazz drummer in America for about three decades -- after all, his sideburned profile could be seen every night on The Tonight Show -- thus far, he has made just this one ingratiating solo album. As a change of pace in the last years of the show's run, he led a quintet of jazzers from the L.A. area, waiting four years for the combination to simmer until he cut this record -- and clearly the burn-in process paid off with a solid, intimate group sound. Fellow TV band members Tom Peterson (tenor sax) and Bruce Paulson (trombone) are the horns, Tom Ranier is on piano and John Leitham on basses; none are strikingly individual players but they cook as a unit. A good deal of the fuel is provided by their leader; whether laying down a solid, hard bop shuffle in "Rear View," alternating between a rock-flavored groove and bebop in the aptly-named "Split-Brain," hammering out some some refined funk in "I'm Home Honey," or supporting his sidemen, Shaughnessy's work is marvelously crisp and propulsive throughout. Typically, Shaughnessy limits his own solo displays to some brief, immaculately executed breaks on "Salt Peanuts," "St. Marx" and "Just Friends" -- and every component of his drum kit is recorded unusually well. As a bonus, he indulges in a closing track of South Indian scatting and hand drumming; it's doubtful whether any similar display swung as hard. This is one great drummer, not merely a famous one.

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