Calvin Brooks

Jazz Standards Recorded Live: An Evening In Las Vegas

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Recorded live at Harrah's in Las Vegas, NV, the guitar/piano duo of Calvin Brooks and Michael Helm offers an hour of jazz music featuring the classic standards. Given the play list and the location, one might assume that this album is little more than a pleasant session of lounge music suitable to relax diners and gamblers. This is not the case by a long shot. These two are playing jazz, not easy listening music. Brooks' cleanly struck guitar style shows the influences of those who have gone before him, including Wes Montgomery, Lenny Breau, and fellow Detroit native Kenny Burrell. The guitarist wisely keeps at a level to promote his ability to play at and over the melody line, without unnecessary chords and smears cluttering up the music. All of the tracks are well-done, but Brooks' style comes through especially clear on such tunes as a thorough exploration of "Autumn Leaves" and a bouncy "So Easy." While the guitar tends to be the major force on the CD, Helm goes beyond being compliant accompanist. On "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," Helm has a relaxed touch, embellishing with sure-handed runs and arpeggios. Like Brooks' guitar, there's nothing heavy-handed in Helm's pianism. A nice touch that is frequently used is quoting from other tunes. One of the more novel applications of this device is Helm's brief reference to the call to the post heard at racetracks. Probably quite appropriate for the center of the gambling world. All in all, instead of falling back on stock arrangements of these classics, the duo has invested their own ideas into the material, resulting in the production of a gem of a session. Recommended.

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