Various Artists

Up on the Roof: The Best of Kennedy Center Jazz on Jazzset, Vol. 1

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The long-running NPR jazz series Jazzset has recorded a number of concerts in the various venues inside Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center for broadcast. This anthology will hopefully be the first of many volumes to come from the series. Vocalist LaVerne Butler swings effortlessly through "The Blues Are Out of Town" with the help of pianist Bruce Barth's potent trio. Regina Carter finds a middle ground between swing violin legends Stuff Smith and Stéphane Grappelli as she tackles the old warhorse "Lady Be Good" with pianist Cyrus Chestnut, in which she detours into a series of humorous quotes (including "Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead") as well as showcasing some campy exchanges between bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper. While Kurt Elling has become the darling of many critics since his debut in the 1990s, his interpretation of "You Don't Know What Love Is" is a bit overwrought. Guitarist Romero Lubambo plays his lively Latin composition "Bachiao" with a quintet led by Kenny Barron. Stefon Harris, who has become one of the dominant vibraphonists early on in his career, doubles on marimba for a dazzling workout of Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" that suggests the influence of Milt Jackson. Peter Martin is a fine pianist who is equally known for his work as an accompanist and as a leader. His infectious "La Pregunta (The Question)" is a rollicking anthem built upon a repeated motif. Pianist Benny Green and guitarist Russell Malone have worked together on many occasions over the years, so their lyrical interpretation of Billy Taylor's "A Bientôt" should come as no surprise. The most unusual selection is the quirky arrangement of "September Song" by Jazzset host Dee Dee Bridgewater. It starts out as a duet with guitarist Louis Winsberg, but quickly detours into a novel blend of Latin jazz, soul, and a bit of funk. Contractual restrictions with labels probably make it difficult for The Kennedy Center to issue complete CDs by individual artists, but this series at least gives Jazzset listeners an opportunity to once again hear some excerpts from their favorite shows. Highly recommended!

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