Bob Washington Trio

Recollections of Darby Hicks

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This is an unusual album for several reasons. First, it is rare for the CIMP label to feature a male vocalist. Secondly, the vocalist, leader Bob Washington was eighty years old when this was recorded. Finally, Washington is backed only by trombone and bass, a bold and confident move that leaves the vocalist exposed -- a risky venture. That the trio pulls it off as well as it does is a testament to the quality of the players, the substance of the arrangements and compositions, and the considerable listening skills of trombonist Steve Swell, who contributes some of his best recorded work. Washington has the sort of mellifluous (but never cloying) tone that draws the listener to his den. He recites a walk through time beginning with the first half of the 20th century all the way to the present. Along the way we are entertained as he spins tale after tale, mixing homespun advice with observations of the world. Sometimes his vocabulary gets a tad salty, but by and large Washington, who often sounds like Jon Hendricks, entertains with commentary about life -- its pleasures and travails. A word about Swell: He, along with bassist Dominic Duval, offers a striking contrast to Washington's smooth voice. The trombonist, in particular, opens several pieces with well-known melodies appropriate for the tune. With muted and open tones and a rambunctious, infectious buoyancy, Swell not only adds to Washington's sound but the trombonist stamps the entire recording with his considerable presence. The opening and closing pieces feature only Swell and Duval, and considering their historically close association (well-documented on this label) it is no wonder that the three sound as polished and compelling as they do.