Joe Augustine

Swinging on a Star

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When a jazzman is as sentimental as Joe Augustine, he runs the risk of not being taken seriously by bop purists. Such purists will tell you that jazz should never be too sentimental -- they insist that the essence of jazz is musicians playing John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" or Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" as fast as they possibly can and trying to impress you with their mastery of chord changes. But sentimental playing does, in fact, have a place in jazz. It had a place in the 1920s and 1930s; it has a place today. An unaccompanied solo piano outing, 1993's Swinging on a Star is unapologetically sentimental. This CD isn't about chops or chord changes -- it's about feeling. And Augustine brings plenty of feeling to well-known standards like "Stardust," "Blues in the Night," and Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child." The acoustic pianist doesn't try to hide his romantic side -- he celebrates it. Think of the most sentimental pianism of Nat King Cole or Dave McKenna, and you will know where Augustine is coming from on this session. Like so many acoustic jazzmen, he makes the mistake of emphasizing standards that jazz listeners have heard countless times. Augustine could have offered more surprises; instead of picking so many war-horses that have been beaten to death, he would have done well to find some gems that have been overlooked in recent decades -- for example, "Mam'selle" and "Candy" (two major pop hits of the 1940s) would have been perfect for this album. But because Augustine plays so beautifully, one is inclined to be forgiving and cut him some slack. Swinging on a Star makes it clear that there is still room for jazzmen who aren't afraid to be romantic.

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