Mike Longo Trio

Sting Like A Bee

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Mike Longo's star has never risen to the heights it deserves after his solid career move as a sideman for Dizzy Gillespie. He's done commercially oriented funk music, ballads, blues, and bop, but never reached the top-tier level over comparably talented contemporaries. This follow-up to his good effort Float Like a Butterfly (then with bassist Paul West and drummer Jimmy Wormworth) should continue an upward trajectory, as he's quite determined and motivated to not only interpret mainstream modern jazz, but to do it his own way. He can hardly do any wrong, upping the ante with ultimate pros like bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash as his sidekicks. There is a distinct pacing issue in that the tracks alternate from fast to slow almost exclusively. In the age of shuffle modes and the listener selecting tracks to suit certain moods, this is a minor critique, but valid if one listens to CDs all the way through. Nonetheless, the music here is consistently excellent while going through mood changes high or low, displaying Longo's fondness for several great modern composers, and includes three of his own works. Of the upbeat numbers, Longo tears up his original "Bird Seed" in memory of Charlie Parker with a little angularity of Thelonious Monk tossed in, does Clifford Brown's "Daahoud" well, albeit a bit on the polite side, and takes a medley from West Side Story at a furious tempo, but retains the prettier side of the melodies. Two Wayne Shorter compositions are interpreted, including a jaunty, modal take of "Speak No Evil" that reflects the heavy left-handedness of McCoy Tyner, while the obscure "Dance Cadaverous" is done in waltz time, and not as macabre as the title would suggest. Longo is a patient, melodic player at heart, which is readily heard during Clare Fisher's beautiful Latin song "Morning," and particularly a decelerated version of Kurt Weill's "Speak Low" in maximum subtlety. The slinky "Love for Sale" is more a "sex for sale" billboard even without the hither-come-yon lyrics; "Checked Bags" is again a molasses-slow and dripping blues, while the nightcap "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" from the book of Herbie Hancock is accurately played by this talented trio, with all the stock trick accents and passionate embellishments firmly in place. As a tribute to former boss, the late Gillespie, Longo concludes with a fine solo piano version of "Kush" in steady, loping 6/8 time. There are many fine piano/bass/drums recordings, and similarly sized combos roaming the planet, though jazz has lost many of their early progenitors of this format. Mike Longo and this peerless trio prove there's plenty left in the tank for three musicians to get together, swing, and embellish attractive melodies with new vim and vigor, while also digging deep into the timeless well of romance. Longo also dedicates this recording to his father Mike Longo Sr., who passed away in 2009.

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