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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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Mark LOPEMAN

Nice Work If You Can Get It

No record company or catalogue numbers given.

 

 

1. Love Walked In [6:40]; 2.My Reverie [4:27]; 3.Intentions [5:58]; 4.My Kind of Girl [6:42]; 5.Iím a Fool to Want You [6:47]; 6.La Station-Service [6:38];7. Jitterbug Waltz [8:22]; 8.Nice Work If You Can Get It [6:15]; 9.World Economy Blues [6:56]; 10.Woodstock [6:27]; 11. Iím Always Chasing Rainbows [4:34]; 12.Everything Happens to Me [6:30]

Mark Lopeman (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet), Ted Rosenthal (piano), Nicki Parrott (bass), Tim Horner (drums), Brandon Lee (trumpet, flugelhorn) tracks 1,3,6,7,9,10, Noah Bless (trombone) tracks 2,3,6,7,9,10.

Rec. at Bennett Studios, Englewood, New Jersey, USA, June 8-9, 2011. Recording & Mixing Engineer (Roman Klun)

Total time [76:50]

 

The world of jazz is so much wider than one can imagine and there is so much talent out there that anyone can be forgiven for missing out on all but the highest profile players and any locally home-grown talent that one might hear as well. Therefore this is the first Iíve heard of saxophonist Mark Lopeman for which apologies to the relevant quarters. Apparently this is his debut album as band leader despite being in his 50s. Well itís not before time and I shall certainly be seeking out other discs where he has played as part of other bands. What emerges is a prodigious talent and the most beautifully ďfatĒ sound Iíve heard in a long time Ė just listen to track 4 to hear what I mean. Obviously he has a keen appreciation for the sound he wanted as he has gathered around him a band that sounds so well put together that youíd easily believe theyíd been together for years. I also find it the mark of a good musician who wants to communicate with his audience that they donít pack their discs full of their own compositions but instead make a selection of tunes that include standards and, in this case, nicely mixed with lesser well known songs and just two of his own. When you hear someone playing a tune you know itís all the easier to evaluate them alongside the aural memory you have for other recordings of the same tune by others, or at least thatís how my mind works. That said Mark Lopeman certainly doesnít disappoint; on the contrary right from the starting blocks with Love Walked In, one of two compositions of the glorious Gershwin, he nails his sax playing talents to the musical mast and you immediately know for sure that youíre going to enjoy this disc. It is a beautifully nuanced version that stands alongside any other Iíve heard. Then thereís a real treat with a jazz version of Debussyís ( My) Reverie. This is an adorably gorgeous version which Larry Clinton came up with and fits perfectly with these great musicians sounding more numerous than the sum of their parts and delivering a silky-smooth little gem. The first of the two Lopeman compositions is next and Intentions, as with all really good tunes, is something you think youíve heard before even though you havenít. Great rhythms from Markís clarinet, superlative piano work, expert drumming and sumptuous bass playing to kick the tune off with and for the final minute or so joined by the trumpet of Brandon Lee and Noah Bless on trombone. Aural bliss! My Kind of Girl which follows is the first of the four songs on the disc with associations with Frank Sinatra and which make such great sounding vehicles for Lopemanís easy singing style of playing that recall the likes of Stan Getz and Zoot Sims from the pre-Coltrane era when jazz was really establishing its credentials as a future music that demanded to be taken seriously, and the next tune is a fabulous rendition ofIím a Fool to Want You. Among other delights are a Legrand tune, La Station Service, from the score of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg thatís all too rarely heard and which gives Brandon Lee another chance to demonstrate why Lopeman chose him to join the rhythm section for this disc just as it does for trombonist Noah Bless, and Lopemanís solo here is truly superb. Turning from tenor to soprano saxophone for Fats Wallerís Jitterbug Waltz Lopeman delivers a gorgeous sound on the longest track on the disc that you could continue to listen to for a lot longer given the chance such is the magic his artistry is able to weave. Gershwinís other entry and the discís title track comes next and I defy anyone to come up with a more musically satisfying version than this in which the quartet of Lopeman, Rosenthal, Parrott and Horner give it their all and boy does it swing! In a collaboration in scoring with Chris Byars, Lopeman has come up with a very pertinent tune for these times for track 9, (how will they explain the title in the future I wonder), World Economy Blues. Surely itís a rare event when a jazz song mirrors politics in this way but as they say it really is an ill wind that blows no good and when itís all over at least weíll still have this to enjoy in the future and what a great tune it is. Joni Mitchell may be a surprising source for inspiration but once Woodstock begins you know Lopemanís got it right as the tune lends itself so well to the jazz vibe and the whole sextet gives it a really effective outing. Iím Always Chasing Rainbows with its Chopin connection is an interesting choice but again one that works just as well in a jazz environment as it does in a piano recital. The final offering on this highly enjoyable disc is another Frank Sinatra hit Everything Happens to Me which has Lopeman sign off in fine form with a really laid back version of this classic in which he and Rosenthal duet to perfection. When you read that Lopeman arranged all the tunes as well you get a sense of his abilities and Bill Kirchner who has written the liner notes ends by saying that if Lopemanís ďplaying and writing is new to you, itís a safe bet that hearing this CD will leave you wanting to hear moreĒ. Nuff said!

Steve Arloff



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