Joanie Pallatto

The King and I

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Despite the joint billing with Joanie Pallatto -- who contributes mightily to this album -- this is venerable jazzman King Fleming's show. Venerable is perhaps an understatement, as his first recorded session was in December 1945, where he appeared as a sideman alongside Wynonie "Blues" Harris with Johnny Alston & His All Stars. On his second album for Chicago's Southport label, not only is Fleming singular piano artistry on display, but ten of the 14 items on the playlist are his original compositions. Joined on this set by vocalist, record company executive, and lyricist -- she provides the words for five of Fleming's tunes -- Joanie Pallatto, these two pros work together comfortably and confidential. The coolness of Pallatto's voice and the melodic crispness of the Fleming's piano seems to have been preordained for each other. Add as adornments some of Chicago's finest performers and the result is jazz at the highest level. The musical agenda is a varied one befitting Fleming's long and varied experience as a musician. He likes to work with exotic themes like those woven into "Overt" and "Opportunity for Love." The former is strictly instrumental and is the stage for the languid soprano sax of Rich Fudoli. The latter features Fudoli's haunting flute which, along withPallatto's wordless vocalizing, contriving a variety of jungle sounds. On Fleming's "Bypass," the piano and Clifford Griffin's bass are joined by Pallatto simulating an alto horn. Straight-ahead jazz comes with "Eastgate," as Pallatto's swinging scatting is underscored by Fleming's bouncing piano, sounding more like Oscar Peterson on this one. Romantic piano is front and center on the lovely ballad "Pen Point," with Griffin's bass strumming providing a soft cushion onto which Fleming's notes gently land. There's just enough standard material to provide balance to the play list . Pallatto is joined by Fleming on vocal on "Somebody Loves Me," with another veteran, Bobby Lewis, doing solid work on the muted trumpet. The album is representative of the backbone of jazz. Not groundbreaking, but dependable and durable performance of original jazz compositions mixed with familiar standards performed by musicians who really know what they are doing. Highly recommended.

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