Dr. Midnight: Live at the Green Mill

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Someone who doesn't know anything about Sabertooth's history and listens to Pat Mallinger's "Blues for C Piff" (the opening track on Dr. Midnight: Live at the Green Mill) without hearing the rest of the album might think that he/she has this Chicago-based quartet all figured out. With an infectious jazz-blues groove that would have fit right in on a Richard "Groove" Holmes or Jack McDuff album back in the '60s, "Blues for C Piff" could easily lead one to believe that Sabertooth's specialty is organ combo soul-jazz. Well, Sabertooth is an organ combo, and soul-jazz is part of what they do. But this 67-minute CD, which was recorded at the Green Mill in Chicago on June 23, 2007, doesn't offer soul-jazz exclusively -- not by any means. Diversity is the rule on Dr. Midnight, which also contains everything from a reflective, John Coltrane-ish piece (Mallinger's "Tetemetearri") to an exuberant jazz-calypso workout ("Mary Anne") to a post-bop interpretation of the Grateful Dead's "China Cat Sunflower." Mallinger's "It's Surely Gonna Flop If It Ain't Got That Bop" has a strong Charlie Parker influence, while post-bop prevails on an engaging performance of the Odd Couple theme. So even though Dr. Midnight has a lot to offer from a soul-jazz/hard bop standpoint, it also has much to offer from a post-bop standpoint. One thing that sets this disc apart from other organ jazz recordings is the combination of instruments offered by Sabertooth, including Mallinger on tenor sax, alto sax, and Native American flute; Cameron Pfiffner on tenor and soprano sax, flute, and piccolo; Pete Benson on organ; and Ted Sirota on drums. How often do you hear an organ combo that includes two saxophonists who are also flutists, one of them playing a Native American flute? Predictability is never a problem for Sabertooth on this consistently engaging live album.

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