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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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MIKE LONGO

A Celebration of Diz and Miles

Consolidated Artists
Productions Inc CAP 1033

 

 


All Blues (Miles Davis) [8:29], Con Alma (Dizzy Gillespie) [6:54], Milestones (Miles Davis) [6:29], Ow (Dizzy Gillespie) [8:43], Freddie Freeloader (Miles Davis), [7:24], Here Tiz (Dizzy Gillespie) [6:37], Summertime (George Gershwin) [6:37], Tour de Force (Dizzy Gillespie) [6:15], You Don’t Know What Love Is (Don Raye & Gene de Paul) [6:06], So What (Miles Davis) [4:56], A Night In Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie) [7:25] (each interspersed with audience reaction which are given track numbers, hence 11 numbers become 21 tracks)

The Mike Longo Trio: Mike Longo (piano), Paul West (bass), Ray Mosca (drums)

rec. live at The John Birks Gillespie Auditorium in the New York City Baha’i Center, June 26, 2012. [76:58]

Recorded by Bob Magnuson, Mixing & Mastering by Alesandro V. Perrotta

 

This is a brilliantly recorded and cleverly selected and thus thoroughly fitting and highly enjoyable celebratory tribute to two of the true giants of jazz, John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie and Miles Davis. It is performed by the Mike Longo Trio that I have to admit I hadn’t come across before, though it has been playing and recording for well over 40 years (!). That fact is further proof, if it were needed, that Jazz is in a very healthy state with such a wealth of talent that no one can possible be expected to unearth it all, and long may that state continue.

The trio is a perfect combo to showcase such a tribute because it really allows the listener to concentrate on the music first and foremost and these three musicians are so exceptional that it couldn’t rest in more capable hands. Kicking off with the wonderfully atmospheric All Blues with its gently swaying beat Mike Longo establishes his jazz piano credentials with a brilliant rendition of this jazz standard superbly backed by Paul West’s lush bass and Ray Mosca’s intelligent drumming, which together produce a truly heady cocktail with which to begin this 11 course banquet. If ever one wanted to find a track to embody the meaning of ‘laid back’ then surely it would have to be Miles Davis’ deceptively simple sounding All Blues which always brings to my mind a marina full of yachts gently bobbing about in a calm sea with a brilliantly blue sky overhead – magic! In Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma Mike leads with an improvisatory solo piano intro lasting almost two minutes before the rhythm section joins in and together they concoct a version that’s different to any I’ve heard before with Mike’s interpretation carrying on the improvising nature he began with. Milestones must be among Davis’ most well known compositions and is always a joy to hear in any version and here’s another case in point with Mike’s piano teasing out the main theme from another of his improvisations. It is one of the many joys of jazz that the notes on the page are only a guide, a starting point, a springboard, from which to launch into a new interpretation and every one of them is valid. With Ow, another Dizzy Gillespie tune, we hear Mike playing very much in the style of Thelonius Monk with plenty of Monk’s characteristic off beat notes that made his work so idiosyncratic, and it works perfectly well here too. Freddie Freeloader is another of Miles Davis’ best known tunes which again receives a Mike Longo makeover with Mike’s piano making the most of the trumpet solos that Miles wrote so well. Dizzy’s Here Tiz comes in for some more offbeat treatment from Mike and with some lovely fat sounds from Paul West’s beautiful bass. We have a rest from Diz and Miles next with Gershwin’s Summertime which must surely be a jazz standard known even by those who know no other jazz. Mike’s rendition of this glorious tune is marvellously relaxed with just the sort of playing you might expect to hear in a quintessentially smoky basement jazz club with a Humphrey Bogart lookalike sitting at a white piano. It is back to Dizzy next with Tour de Force in a nicely judged performance before the Don Raye & Gene de Paul song You Don’t Know What Love Is comes along with a nice intro from Mike that gently ushers in this lovely tune that is the staple of so many jazz singers and which is almost a solo piano piece with Mike’s accompanists only making a brief appearance towards the close. The last of the numbers written by Miles Davis, So What is given a great outing, but then how can you go wrong with a tune such as this? The whole concert closes with Dizzy’s fabulous standard A Night In Tunisia that has been covered hundreds of times and this take is another brilliant example of how good a tune it is and how improvising on it can reveal yet more hidden depths. Mike Longo’s particular strength I feel is being able to extract the kernel of the tune and demonstrating his special magic of showcasing the tune’s essential elements in a new and original way and as his note explains the list of compositions were handed to the other two only just as the curtain raised and what we have is a disc of totally unrehearsed improvisations done on the spot which makes the experience all the more surprising and enjoyable – this concert cannot be repeated ever again in the same way so this is a unique one-off disc.

Steve Arloff



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