North Star Jazz Ensemble

Like Someone In Love

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On their third recording, the NSJE (not from Minnesota, the band is based in Providence, RH) present a pleasant mix of mainstream jazz-styled American popular standards. Canadian guitarist Gray Sargent from Tony Bennett's band joins the core group of either trumpeter/flügelhornists John Allmark or Jeff Stout, occasional trombonist Artie Montanaro or harmonicist Mike Turk, saxophonist Bruce Abbott, bassist Marty Ballou, pianist Ron Fournier, and drummer Paul Mason. There are only two tracks of the 13 that display a grand amount of hard-swung energy: a three-horn unison-played version of "Lady Be Good" with a good slice of "Broadway" quoted in the bridge, and the quick bossa chart of "It Might as Well Be Spring," where alto, guitar, and harmonica all get their licks in. The group has a marked propensity for splitting melody lines 50/50, as one will state the first line and then the other takes over, while they play together at the tail. A simple "The Best Is Yet to Come," tenor-led/flügel (Allmark) followed by an outstanding interpretation of "Midnight Sun," the guitar-intro'd/harmonica-echoed easy waltz "Charade," the lilting flügel (Stout) and tenor swing of "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and the guitar/trombone combo for the ballad "Stardust" best represent this obvious shared stance. Similarly charted but less effective are the half-speed ballad with tenor/muted trumpet (unidentified), "Sweet Lorraine" and the really slow closer "In the Wee Small Hours." Three horns in union congeal during the light "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Abbott's alto is run off by Turk's harmonica on the torch song "Unforgettable," and it goes into Stan Getz-ian mode for the title track. The Fournier-fronted trio nicely goes it alone for "Over the Rainbow." There's nothing virtuosically earthshaking, save occasional moments from Sargent or Turk, but the NSJE makes good jazz music that most listeners can enjoy one time through.

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