George Mraz

Jazz

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You couldn't have asked for a more sensitive, intuitive acoustic bassist in the '70s, '80s, and '90s than George Mraz. From Stan Getz and Joe Henderson to Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Rowles, and Tommy Flanagan, the Czech bassist has accompanied one heavyweight after another since arriving in the U.S. in 1968. But surprisingly, Mraz didn't record as a leader until 1991. His first two albums, 1991's Catching Up and 1995's My Foolish Heart, were recorded for the Japanese Alfa label, and it wasn't until 1995's Jazz that Mraz finally recorded for an American label as a leader. Much of this excellent hard bop/post-bop CD finds him leading a trio that includes Richie Beirach on acoustic piano and Billy Hart on drums, although the trio becomes a quartet when tenor saxman Rich Perry steps in on Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes" and Mraz's brief "Pepper" (written for baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams). When Beirach shows us his lyrical side on Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks," Bill Evans' "Time Remembered," and the standard "Moonlight in Vermont," you can't help but admire Mraz's tremendous sensitivity -- in fact, Mraz enjoys as strong a rapport with Beirach as he did with Flanagan and Peterson. Produced by Todd Barkan, Jazz makes you wish that a U.S. label had recorded Mraz as a leader long before 1995.

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