Howard Alden

Live in '95

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With guitarist Howard Alden and trombonist Dan Barrett leading a quintet -- any quintet -- the results are bound to be entrancing. The twin leaders are joined by saxophonist Chuck Wilson, bassist Frank Tate, and drummer Jackie Williams on Live in '95, and the results meet all expectations. The package has also been sweetened by the guest appearance of singer Terrie Richards on several cuts. As the Alden-Barrett fan might expect, the album is loaded with standards, but the set is never overly predictable or familiar. One of the best-known cuts, the Ira and George Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm," receives an incredible nine-minute workout, while Richards' take on "Jeepers Creepers" removes the song from novelty status. Alden and Barrett also bring in oddities like Johnny St. Cyr's "Oriental Strut" and the less-than-traditional "Ask Me Now" by Thelonious Monk. As one might guess, long versions of "When Lights Are Low" and "Savoy Blues" leave lots of room for great solo work. Alden's guitar is forever tasteful, while Barrett's trombone adds a vintage flavor to the proceedings. Richards' light-toned vocals add a bit of variety, with a swinging take on "It's Now or Never" and a gentle rendition of "Skylark." Live in '95 is simply great mainstream jazz that will please fans of all the players involved.

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