Irv Stokes

Just Friends

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The title of this CD could have reasonably been It's About Time! Irvin Stokes, who one might recall from the 1970s version of the Savoy Sultans or from the Illinois Jacquet big band of the following decade, has been a fine swing-based trumpeter since at least the 1950s. His only previous date as a leader was a quartet album for Black & Blue in 1984. In his early 70s in 1997, Stokes is in top form throughout this fairly melodic set. Liner note writer Phil Schaap compares Stokes to the late Doc Cheatham; although the two trumpeters mostly stuck to similar pre-bop areas, the comparison is somewhat unfair, particularly since Stokes actually sounds closer to Jonah Jones in his quartet days. No other 90-year-old hit high notes like Doc, and Stokes at this point certainly had a long way to go before he reached that age. However, Stokes does sound pretty ageless throughout the relaxed but swinging date, as does the underrated pianist Lloyd Mayers, bassist Earl May (who recorded three notable trio numbers with John Coltrane back in 1957), and drummer Eddie Locke (a veteran of the early-'50s Detroit jazz scene). Few surprises occur, but the swinging interpretations are enjoyable and fortunately put the focus on the nearly forgotten Irvin Stokes. Highlights include "Sweet Lorraine," "Blues for Dew," "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Perdido."

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