The Music of Eddie South

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Violinist Eddie South was one of the first -- if not the first -- to incorporate the violin into swing-era music, but Stuff Smith, St├ęphane Grappelli, and Joe Venuti get most of the credit. Veteran string player Jeremy Cohen aims to rectify that situation via this wonderful set of tunes that South performed, with a slight touch of bebop and spirituality thrown in. As South adapted to the times before he passed away in 1962, Cohen and his expert professional band play the standards, swing, and hot jazz identified with the early period of the music, but with a fresh perspective that is not jaded or unfashionable. Dr. Billy Taylor's influence and presence are also felt or heard on his compositions like the basic "Mad Monk" or the bop swinger "Dr. Groove." Cohen is a relaxed violinist (a former student of Itzhak Perlman) who does not exploit his instrument, but instead allows it to do the talking for itself in parsed phrases. He and the band play "Yesterdays" and "Rose Room" like they were born to do it, while "Idaho" -- an adaptation of "Back Home in Indiana" -- seems simply rendered, but is a tougher draw that it might seem. "Eddie's Blues," which South did with Django Reinhardt, really brings the music into focus, while the other tracks extend the legacy of the so-called "Dark Angel" in a realm anyone can relate to, no matter the generation. This San Francisco-based band also features the arranger and pianist Larry Dunlap, a hero in his own right, while the masterful drummer Harold Jones keeps things moving along nicely. If you like this brand of vintage jazz, this recording will knock your socks off, and comes highly recommended to all.

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