The music on pianist Larry Vuckovich's latest is laid-back and relaxed, transporting the listener to a smoky lounge as his small group plays straight-ahead jazz in a clear, credible and competent manner. Vuckovich emigrated from Yugoslavia to San Francisco with his family in 1951. He started to hang around the jazz clubs in that city hearing jazz giants like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Drawn to the music by these listening experiences, Vuckovich started playing professionally in 1960. Over the years, he has played and recorded with Irene Kral, Mel Tormé, Lucky Thompson, Arnette Cobb, and others who have wandered to the city on the bay to perform. Vuckovich's intent is to have the music and arrangements on this album focus on the saxophone of Lester Young within and outside the context of the Count Basie band. Two reed men share the responsibility of evoking the Young sound (which supplements their own creative interpretative skills), Noel Jewkes, and Jules Broussard. In addition to the tenor, Jewkes recalls that Young was also a master with the clarinet as he solos on "Blue and Sentimental" bringing to mind Young's 1938 Count Basie recording. Jewkes also takes up the straight stick on "Sweet Lorraine" where bass player Nat Johnson does a vocal. Another notable track, in an album of consistently good playing, is the title tune "Young at Heart," where Vuckovich's arrangement calls for a medium-tempo pace with riffs interspersed among the solos turning this usually dolefully played tune into a bouncing melody. The swinging performance of Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" is based on "How High the Moon." "The Lady's in Love With You" allows bass player Buca Necak to go beyond time-keeping duties with some tasteful soloing. Former Basie drummer Harold Jones is on all cuts but "Ornithology" where Dottie Dodgion has the drumming duties. Leading the way throughout the process is the spare pianistic styling of Larry Vuckovich whose debt to Basie is apparent by the space he leaves between the chords and his nod to the famous Basie tune-ending coda on such cuts as Neal Hefti's "Why Not." And "why not" add this fine album to your collection.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan