Larry Vuckovich

Somethin' Special

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A veteran pianist deserving of wider recognition, Larry Vuckovich has spent several decades on the American jazz scene since leaving his native Yugoslavia for the U.S. in the early '50s. For the most part the songs on these 2011 sessions focus on bop and hard bop from the late '50s and early '60s, ranging from solo piano to trio, quartet, and quintet, featuring tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton on five selections. Vuckovich's working group includes tenor saxophonist Noel Jewkes, bassist Paul Keller, and drummer Chuck McPherson. Vuckovich's solo treatment of Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" mixes glistening lines with jaunty bop, while his approach to Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" is lush with a few Tatum-inspired runs added for fun. Hamilton shares the spotlight with Jewkes for three songs. The robust twin tenor interpretation of Sonny Clark's "Somethin' Special" is a breezy take of an infectious blues with potent solos all around, with Hamilton's hard blowing contrasting with Jewkes' lighter but equally swinging approach, in which they both playfully exchange a tag from Bizet's Carmen. Keller steals the show with his intricate opening solo to "Comin' Home Baby," though the one-two punch of the tenor team energizes this favorite, with the leader's solo blending soul-jazz with a Brazilian air. The tenor men also devour Dexter Gordon's "Cheese Cake" with a delicious performance. Hamilton plays the sole tenor in a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's melancholy "How Insensitive" and the touching ballad "What Will I Tell My Heart," while Jewkes is featured in Horace Silver's infrequently recorded "Enchantment." Vuckovich contributed two fine originals as well. "Loving Linda" showcases Jewkes' impressive chops on soprano sax, a shimmering swinger with a Brazilian touch. The rhythm section tackles the pianist's driving "Zeljko's Blues" with gusto, featuring each of them individually in what should be a natural set-closer for Vuckovich. This CD easily lives up to its title with outstanding performances throughout the sessions.

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