For this fifth CD by veteran Chicago trumpeter Lewis, the prerequisite is that having a good time is why he plays jazz, not the opposite. If you've ever heard Lewis live, you know how infectious that lightheartedness can be. His bubbly, positive persona is indelibly stamped on this set. And as the ultimate pied piper, Lewis attracts like minded Chi-town talent. On this date you'll hear a core group featuring his longtime keyboardist Jim Ryan, melodic drummer Jeff Stitely, and the impressive saxophonist Pat Mallinger. Frequenting tracks are percussionist Alejo Poveda and guitarist Curtis Robinson, while cameos are made by trombonists Jim Beebe and John Allred, clarinetist Chuck Hedges, percussionist Ruben Alvarez, and on two selections, Singers Unlimited icon Bonnie Herman. Lewis utilizes a Satchmo informed salty rich tone, especially on flugelhorn, and it serves him well. He changes up on things stylistically from the popping salsa of "Tanga" to the samba based "Saudade" (Walter Booker's) and "The Monster & the Flower." His solid swing and tuneful leads are prevalent on his modern mainstream originals "Jasmine" and the title track, especially the latter tune, where everyone gets a short solo, and piano and guitar trade fours. They're having fun immediately! A pensive, pretty "Nalini" is dedicated to an Air India flight attendant, while Ryan's romantic piano lead to "Lady in the Moon" is a heart stopper. Lewis sings with Herman on "Just Friends," but Herman's solo flight on "Some Other Time" is living proof of her deft prowess. Lewis also gets his kicks dragging around the Chicago Symphony's clarinet section, backing Herman on "Friends." A laid-back "Nature Boy," Lewis again on flugelhorn, and a rousing take of Wingy Manone's "Strange Blues," with Hedges and Beebe caps the set. Lewis is soft in all the right places, and firm when he wants to get swinging. It's an innate flexibility to adapt to different forms of jazz, and his undeniable ability to get around his horn. But even moreso he can inspire others to do the same, and that holds him in high regard. There are many basic, enjoyable jazz tenets peppered throughout this CD that are plenty good enough for the rest of us to join in and laugh at this silly life, right along with him. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
feat: Bonnie Herman
feat: Bonnie Herman