While still a teenager, A.J. Salas established himself as one of the premiere performers in Colorado. This, his first album, features a play list of Salas originals, stompers by the likes of blues legend Leroy Carr, and tunes by others. With his strong left hand, that's the kind of music Salas specializes in -- blues and boogie. The tracks mix Salas on solo piano, in piano duets with Ann Rabson, and with his "little big band." His boogie-woogie side dominates on "Jumbo Gumbo." The same beat drives "Frances," but this time Salas is with the band. Although he was just 14 when he recorded this album, Salas fully understands that the essence of jazz is swing -- and swing he does throughout. Listen to "Side Walk Sun Day," with the young pianist and his band in a romp that lets it all hang out. There's some excellent soloing here by Jim Hoppes on guitar and Keith Harms on trumpet. The blues just ooze on Carr's classic "Midnight Hour Blues," enhanced by a soul-filled vocal by Mary Flower. The strength of the band members is further demonstrated with a trombone solo by Jeff Young on Ray Bryant's "Madison Time." One of the more engaging tracks in the set is a piano duet on "How Long Blues"; Salas teams with Rabson and they entice the listener to eavesdrop on their musical conversation. Even though the pianism is soft, its delicacy fits in well with the overall theme of the session. Although young in years, Salas has proven very mature when it comes to performing his music. Hopefully, this album is a forerunner of many to come in a long jazz career. The talent is certainly there, and one hopes that there will be plenty of opportunities for Salas to use it. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan
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