Johnny Rae

Opus de Jazz, Vol. 2

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In 1960, Savoy continued its Opus series with this tasty entry. Vibist John Rae's quintet delivers bright, sometimes cool, sometimes bluesy performances. It's a decidedly more modern approach than the swing-influenced Opus de Jazz led by Milt Jackson in 1955. Call it cocktail jazz with attitude, without compromise. That attitude comes through in the four John Rae originals, blues forms with bop harmonies and intriguing voicings. It's also there in the absorbing solo work, and in the high level of communication within the group. Rae tends to play a lot of notes, but his skittering lines work when set against the steady pulse of drummer Jake Hanna's cymbals and the relentless, walking bass of John Neves. With Hanna and Neves doing such a fine job, pianist Steve Kuhn frequently takes on the role of a colorist, inserting angular chords sparingly in his accompaniments, rather than assuming full-time duties in the rhythm section. The key player, though, is Bobby Jasper, who is heard exclusively on flute. He has it all covered: blues, bop, ideas, technique, and a great tone; a breathy, vocal quality well-suited to blues phrasing; as well as command of precise articulation and the ability to play "pretty" when the occasion calls. Jasper's skill is a natural progression from the pioneering jazz flute work of Frank Wess, who was on the original Opus de Jazz. This set is also of interest for its two Charlie Parker compositions. The quintet's "Ah-LeuCha" and "Parker's Mood" are at one and the same time faithful to the originals, yet reinterpreted enough to sound like fresh compositions.

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