When live jazz is played as well as it is on Live in Belfast, it's easy to say nice things about the music. Bass player Frank Tate leads a hot band featuring guitarist Howard Alden, tenor Harry Allen, pianist Dave McKenna, and drummer Butch Miles. The set was recorded during two live dates in Belfast in 1996 before a crowd that knew good jazz when they heard it. The band kick-starts this set with "Four Brothers," a swinging tune filled with eight minutes of breezy solos, then slides into the mellow "On the Alamo" with some lovely work by Alden and Allen. Tate's basslines are insistent on numbers like the jaunty "Lady Be Good" and "Just You, Just Me" (which he kicks off). He also takes a number of leads on tunes like "On the Alamo" that add to the overall texture. Together with Miles' percussion and McKenna's piano, this rhythm section is central to the sound on Live in Belfast. McKenna plays a one-person show on "Chinatown, My Chinatown," beginning with lively stride and moving to a mellow, almost classical, approach. There are a number of excellent solos by Allen and Alden on this disc, with the tenor often setting the mood for a piece and the guitar answering in kind. This album offers an excellent introduction to every player involved. It is also a long disc -- 78 minutes -- meaning that everyone is given plenty of room to stretch out on nearly every cut. Listening to Live in Belfast may not be the same as "being there," but it's pretty darn close.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.