Play Arlen

Spike Robinson

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Play Arlen Review

by Dave Nathan

This album is another in Hep Records' 2000 series, which features some of the better contemporary mainstream artists. Spike Robinson is one of the label's favorites; this is his sixth effort for the Scottish label. The Wisconsin native is teamed with master trombonist George Masso with occasional help from Ken Peplowski, for some of Harold Arlen's most recognizable compositions, especially those he partnered with Ted Koehler and Johnny Mercer for. If this is an Arlen album, what's the Vernon Duke/John LaTouche-penned "Taking a Chance on Love" doing here? Seems that was an old-fashioned mistake. Someone associated with the recording said that Arlen wrote it, and no one bothered to verify. No harm done; it's a great tune.

Robinson's playing doesn't stray much from his usual approach to the music. An eminent practitioner of quality jazz, he follows in the footsteps of mainstream jazz saxophonists like Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Lester Young, and, especially, Al Cohn. Nowhere is his artistry more apparent than on the poignant, soulful "Last Night When We Were Young." Masso, on the other hand, pays tribute to some of the great 'bone players. There's some of Tommy Dorsey's sweetness in "Right as Rain." Jack Teagarden is reprised on the tune that became his signature, "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues." Masso also recalls Trummy Young's solo on "This Time the Dream's on Me," which was featured in the 1941 film Blues in the Night. Ken Peplowski, with his fingers flitting along the keys of the clarinet, plays behind both leaders on "Come Rain or Come Shine." "My Shining Hour," usually played with solemnity, is a swinger in the hands of Masso and Robinson. Mention must be made of the fine rhythm section. John Pearce's uncluttered piano is heard on all the tunes to good effect. Dave Green's bass is featured on "Taking a Chance on Love," and Martin Drew's tasteful drums grace "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Two veteran jazz performers supported by players sympathetically attuned to the music and the way it should be played, make for an entertaining hour (almost) of mainstream jazz at its very best.

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