George Maurer

On Track: Live at the Dakota

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As with its first album, the George Maurer Group successfully continues its mission to become a mainstream jazz jack of all trades. Thus, its second CD includes ballads, swing, blues, traditional, and more as they swagger through a program of standards and entertaining originals. Vocalist Ann Michels is provocative on "Wallflower," sounding like anything but. Showing her adaptability, she comes back as an old-time music hall chanteuse à la Sophie Tucker on a hot version of "Let's Do It." An especially powerful, but fun, track is the opener, a ten-minute exploration of Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol's "Caravan." The trek is led by trumpeter Richard Witteman, aided and abetted by leader/pianist Maurer, who contributes sizzling solo quotes from "Rhapsody in Blue." Additional attractions include Muggsy Lauer's elevated guitar playing and on-the-mark drum work by Scott Chabot. "Pete's Place" is a tribute to a local St. Cloud, MN, hangout, with accolades to its menu sung by Lauer in a voice that goes perfectly with a name like Muggsy. Tom Pattock's down-and-dirty trumpet shares the honors on this one, as he quotes a few bars from the old Jack Benny Show's theme song, the deliberately maudlin "Love in Bloom." Like their previous album, there's a special guest, this time trombonist and bass trumpet player Jim Ten Bensel. His lyrical trombone is featured on "To His Coy Mistress." One especially informative feature about this release is the liner-note explanations of what the players had in mind for each piece of music. This helps listeners make up their minds whether the musical objectives were achieved.

With this CD George Maurer and his talented band has made further progress toward becoming one of the preeminent small jazz groups on the contemporary scene. Recommended.

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