The Avon Street Quintet / Curt Berg

At Stagg Street Studio

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Something of a garage collective lurking in the Los Angeles jazz scene, the Avon Street Quintet is a slightly revolving set of musicians surrounding trombonist Curt Berg. The interesting thing about the album, and about the Quintet's music more generally, is the almost complete lack of focus on Berg himself in the compositions. While he pens most of the group's numbers, including all the tracks on this album, he rarely makes his own horn heard above the fray, aside from on a stray solo or two. More contentedly, he lets pianist Andy Langham and sax player Tom Luer take the limelight for much of the duration here, both showing off some excellent chops along the way. What one hears are inklings of jazz new and old from Berg's pen, and a series of noteworthy executions from the band. "Midwick Man" makes Luer seem to be hailing from somewhere within the classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" recording. Langham shows tiny hints of Bill Evans and Chick Corea in "Bristlecone." The tongue-in-cheek "Client 9" takes cues from New York's post-bop scene with a form of program music. It's these hints of something else that keep the listener's ear triggered, caught on a sense of familiarity. Beyond that, though, it's simply a straightforward exploratory album of jazz, all penned with a touch of whimsy and a deep understanding of the classics, and all played by straight-up professionals. The endeavor is the type of music and playing that one would hear at a nightclub, but only at a particularly good one -- it's the level of execution that's the key.

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