Richie Vitale

Live at Smalls

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The musical role models of trumpeter Richie Vitale (Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan) and tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama (Hank Mobley and Sonny Rollins) are obvious from the beginning of the minor-toned "Barry's Blues" (Vitale's opening break is pure Brownie) and proudly admitted to by the players. So, even with three of the seven selections on this live set being Vitale originals, one should not expect to hear innovative new music; the attractive "Fuji Mama" could have been written by Horace Silver. However, that does not mean the playing is not enjoyable. The quintet (which also includes pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Taro Okamoto) expertly performs hard bop with enthusiasm, high musicianship and inventiveness. The occasional song quotes are often off-the-wall and inspired, Vitale and Lalama blend together very well in the ensembles, and the swinging rhythm section is both supportive and stimulating. The leader is quite warm on a two-song ballad medley (paying tribute to Donald Byrd and making dramatic use of space), and the uptempo "Just One of Those Things" really cooks. Fans of straight-ahead jazz and classic pre-modal Blue Note recordings will definitely want to pick up this excellent CD.

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