Guys & Dolls

Earl Rose

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Guys & Dolls Review

by Thom Jurek

Jazz pianist Earl Rose continues his series of tribute albums -- he's already recorded a pair, one for Disney and one for Burt Bacharach -- with this highly literate tip of the hat to Frank Loesser's classic musical Guys and Dolls. Accompanied by bassist Jay Leonhart, Rose picks 14 tunes from the two-act production and adds just enough swing and snap to add subtle depth and dimension to the originals as both songs and as pieces for extrapolation and jazz improvisation. Rose is a fine melodic improviser and those skills come into play here in spades. His reading of "I'll Know" with bowed bass by Leonhart is a study in harmonic invention with gorgeous right-hand phrasing. While "If I Were a Bell" is not as adventurous as some, his sense of time and syncopation is impeccable. "Adelaide" and "Adelaide's Lament," performed back to back, offer quite literally beautiful studies in texture and counterpoint between the two musicians. As finales, "Luck Be a Lady" and "Guys and Dolls" send the set out on a celebratory note with finger-popping swing carrying the day. This is Rose's finest tribute set yet. His obvious love for the material never overshadows his technical acumen, lending a nearly perfect balance to these classic songs.

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