Boston Jazz Ensemble

In a Sentimental Mood

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With its home base in Rhode Island, the enterprising North Star label has managed to lure a number of outstanding New England studio players into its stable and present them in a variety of small-group settings playing elegant, sophisticated, and highly listenable jazz. They are designated the North Star Jazz Ensemble, the Paul Schmeling Trio or, as here, the Boston Jazz Ensemble. Names that will likely appear in most or all of the groups include Jeff Stout on trumpet and fl├╝gelhorn, Mike Turk on harmonica, and Schmeling on piano, with others added depending upon how large a group is slotted for a particular CD. The play lists tend to be dominated by those classic American popular songs that have almost reached the status of William Shakespeare sonnets -- so well authored and well-known have they become. Regardless of grouping and mix, the outcome is always favorable. The music is simply elegant, the arrangements fresh, the solo work absolutely innovative and inventive. Listen to Rich Lataille and Schmeling literally scrub down "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" with Lataille's smoky, bluesy alto leading the way. Veteran percussion player Alan Dawson, who anchored many a rhythm section since the 1950s, keeps the rhythm flowing with his drum set and adds a vibes solo on "Smooth One." Regrettably, Dawson was to pass on shortly after this album was made. Jeff Stout's expressive, nicely phrased trumpet playing takes over on "When Sunny Gets Blue," and his fl├╝gelhorn is mellow on "My Funny Valentine." Once again, these North Star artists demonstrate that jazz does have a calm side to it, a side that emphasizes the beauty and elegance of the music and its performance. Recommended.

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