Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson

Panorama

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Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson -- the jazz group whose name sounds like that of a New York law firm -- usually favor a piano trio format. But on Panorama, the group often becomes a quartet, thanks to the presence of trumpet-playing guest Valery Ponomarev. Those who are familiar with Ponomarev's background know that he is a Russian immigrant who spent four years with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers after moving to the U.S.; Ponomarev isn't a huge name in the jazz world, but he's an expressive trumpeter/flugelhornist with a warm, appealing tone. Ponomarev is hard-swinging, which doesn't mean that he can't be lyrical when he wants to. And on Panorama, the Russian improviser enjoys a consistently strong rapport with pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, drummer Jeff "Siege" Siegel, and bassist Tim Ferguson. Ponomarev proves to be quite an asset on this acoustic post-bop CD, soloing on original material as well as interpretations of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," and Duke Ellington's "Angelica." The last isn't one of Ellington's better-known compositions -- it certainly hasn't been played nearly as much as "Mood Indigo," "In a Mellow Tone," or "Caravan." But it's a song that deserves to be heard, and the quartet should be applauded for unearthing one of Ellington's neglected jewels. Another track that should be applauded is Stevens' thoughtful "Memorial," which was written in memory of Wayne Shorter's late wife Ana Maria Shorter (who was killed in a plane crash). All of the Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson albums that came out in the '90s are worth hearing, but if you could only have one of them, Panorama would be the best choice.

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