Rob Mullins

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Pianist Rob Mullins' sixteenth album as a leader is only his second really straight-ahead jazz project, and it's about as straight-ahead as they come: leading a traditional quartet (with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Roberts, bassist David LeVray and drummer Evan Stone) he delivers a solid live set of standards and old-fashioned originals, all of them played with wit and innovative energy but also with unflagging respect for tradition. The album opens awkwardly, with a long and completely unnecessary band introduction, but it picks up quickly with Mullins' own "Bb Major Etude," a bright and happy celebration of the bebop sound. Following a lovely (if not exactly revelatory) take on "Angel Eyes," the band swings mightily through a jazz adaptation of Beethoven's "Für Elise," and then stomps into a fine rendition of the hard bop classic "Moanin'." Other highlights include an homage to Thelonious Monk titled "Monk's Ghost" and a calypso-flavored original, "Island Girls." But even on the less unique and revelatory material, the band's sheer joy at playing together makes everything on this album a pleasure to hear. Highly recommended.

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