Unlike in pop music, where tribute bands are generally about imitation with a bit of campiness thrown in, jazz tribute ensembles can find myriad ways -- from wild new improvisations to fresh arrangements and even whole new compositions -- to pay homage to their source of inspiration. The six Vancouver-based musicians known as Ugetsu didn't just have legendary drummer Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers in mind when they formed; they aimed for the specific 1963 lineup. What began as simply a tribute group has evolved into one of the West Coast's hippest original ensembles. Live at the Cellar features six brass-tinged, emotionally compelling, and rhythmically challenging original compositions by members of the band, in addition to a seductive, lightly swinging run-through of Wayne Shorter's "Backstage Sally" and the gleeful tropicality of Joe Henderson's "Caribbean Fire Dance." Although Ugetsu has evolved from its original intention to simply honor Blakey, the master would be proud of their perfect blend of homage and innovation.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran