Paul Gormley has been the bassist with a countless number of bands through the years, including the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Bill Berry L.A. Big Band, Anita O'Day, Joe Williams, and scores of small groups in the Los Angeles area. Drop Me Off in Harlem gives him a rare chance to be a leader and arranger. For the project, Gormley gathered together three major L.A.-based musicians: Sam Most (playing flute and clarinet plus one appearance apiece on alto flute and bass flute), guitarist Larry Koonse, and drummer Paul Kreibich. Gormley and his quartet perform nine Duke Ellington songs along with Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom." The music is West Coast cool jazz with emotions being kept just beneath the surface, restrained yet spirited playing, and a quiet volume. However, the music is never sleepy, there is a generous amount of tempo variation, and both Most and Koonse take plenty of creative solos, while the leader has his spots and Kreibich is tasteful in support. Gormley's arrangements give variety to the music and, in addition to the more familiar Ellington songs (including fine versions of "Drop Me Off in Harlem," "Cotton Tail," and "Main Stem"), one gets to enjoy a revival of "Self Portrait of the Bean." All of the musicians are heard in prime form, with Sam Most in particular having some of his best recent improvisations. This straight-ahead jazz set is easily recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow