Stephen Riley

El Gaucho

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Stephen Riley's fourth CD as a leader for Steeplechase is a bit different, as he has added a piano to the group. With pianist Ernest Turner, bassist Neal Caine, and drummer Jason Marsalis, the tenor saxophonist explores a combination of standards and time-tested jazz compositions. His soft, breathy vibrato in the gorgeous setting of "Never Let Me Go" is an extended affair, with the rhythm section playing conservatively behind him to allow plenty of space. He adds a hip, disguised introduction to "Night and Day," teasing the listener but never outright stating its well-known theme. Riley wails in John Coltrane's "Central Park West," changing the mood completely from the ballad tracks, while his interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Think of One" is full of humor. The two takes of Wayne Shorter's "El Gaucho" are as different as night and day, though they both merited inclusion. Not many artists have recorded songs by Wynton Marsalis, though that may be because every leader seems to concentrate primarily on his or her compositions. In any case, this early work by the trumpeter proves to be an excellent choice, showcasing Caine's bluesy touch.

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