****RINGER OF THE WEEK****Harold Mabern: Afro Blue

Pianist Harold Mabern has made a career out of being a reliable sideman for guys ranging from James Moody, George Coleman and as of late Eric Anderson. Here, he finally gets his due, as he forms a trio with John Webber/b and Joe Farnsworth, but more importantly, he then rotates around with a  collection of vocalists (and horn players) for a Whitman Sampler of how jazz singers should and could sound.

Instrumentals bookend the voices, with Jeremy Pelt/tp and Eric Alexander/ts delivering a snappy little “The Chief,” Peter Bernstein/g cooking on a hip reading of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” and Mabern’s trio closing up things with a tasty “Bobby, Benny, Jyme, Lee, Bu” as a tribute to Art Blakey. Sandwiched inside from the male side is  Gregory Porter bringing out a rich as molasses take of “Afro Blue” and a glowing “The Man From Hyde Park” and Kurt Elling joyfully bopping along on “Billie’s Bounce” and going bel canto on “Portrait of Jennie.” For the ladies, Norah Jones comes in with a sextet which includes the addition of Steve Turre/tb on a lithe “Fools Rush In” and then she sits on the piano bench with Mabern and gets cozy on the duet “Don’t Misunderstand.” Jane Monheit dramatizes “I’ll Take Romance” and “My One and Only Love” while Alexis Cole is sensitive n “Such Is Life.” Throughout the whole session, Mabern displays grace, taste, style and swing. What more do you want from this guy?

Smoke Sessions Records


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