Tony Campise

Strange Beauty

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Tony Campise has never become a huge name in the jazz world, but those familiar with the Texas saxman really swear by him. Listening to Strange Beauty, it isn't hard to see why Campise's small group of admirers sings his praises with such enthusiasm. The improviser isn't the least bit innovative, but when it comes to playing hard bop with warmth and feeling, he is very much in command of the situation. This solid CD finds Campise leading a quintet that employs Joe LoCascio on piano, Fred Hamilton on guitar, John Adams on bass, and Ed Soph on drums. The Texan plays three different saxophones (tenor, alto, and -- to a lesser degree -- soprano), and he also takes an occasional flute solo. Seven of the 13 tracks were written by LoCascio (including the dusky "Ballad of Chet Baker"), while most of the other selections are standards. Some of the songs that Campise embraces had long since been done to death by 1995, especially "Stardust" and "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry." But Campise plays these standards with so much feeling that you're inclined to be forgiving. And besides, it isn't like Strange Beauty excludes new compositions -- LoCascio's originals, in fact, comprise a slight majority of Strange Beauty, which was a nice addition to Campise's impressive, if underrated, catalog.

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