Who says variety shows are dead? Every time veteran Chicago jazz artists Eldee Young and Marshall Vente get together -- and they have been doing so for more than 15 years -- the result is a happy conglomeration of styles and performances. On this their third release, they present a regular smorgasbord of musical offerings that are bound to please just about anyone's jazz palate. Young sings and plays bass, while Vente plays piano and, on "Song for My Father," "toys." There's mainstream and modern jazz with "Birk's Works," Brazilian with "Wave," and the blues with "CC Rider." For the ballad, Young raises images of Rick's piano player, Sam, from Casablanca with "As Time Goes By," ending appropriately with a few notes from "La Marseille." The rapport between the two main players is catching, as on their giving and taking on "Centerpiece," a blues by Jon Hendricks and Harry "Sweets" Edison. But there are other performers of interest on this CD besides the two main players. One of the many good things about a Young/Vente release is that there is usually some room found for ace harmonica player Howard Levy. His mouth organ and Young's Slam Stewart like bass on "Work Song" make that track. The nonet horn section, Project 9, helps out on a couple of tracks and has some of Chicago's top horn players sitting in as part of the group, including trumpeter Terry Connell and Jim Massoth on tenor sax. There's a bit of tongue in cheek as well with Vente's upside-down, backwards adaptation of "Just in Time," which he calls "Just Time In." Step Up to the Mic is another winner for these two Chicago jazz veterans and their friends. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan