Monday, March 1, 2010

Instrumental CD of the Month - "Mike Longo Trio: Sting Like A Bee"

Instrumental CD of the Month
Mike Longo Trio: "Sting Like A Bee" (CAP) 2010

Rating: ***** (musical performance) ***** (sound quality)

A living jazz legend, NY-based pianist Mike Longo leads a trio with Sonny Rollins' longtime bassist Bob Cranshaw and a great drummer, Lewis Nash, heard often with Ron Carter and, most recently, on the Danilo Perez/Claus Ogerman masterpiece "Across The Crystal Sea."

Probably the best Longo trio album in many years - and the follow-up to the 2007 "Floating Like A Butterfly" - "Sting Like A Bee" was recorded in 2009 for his own CAP label at Bennett Studios (yes, Tony Bennett's state-of-the-art house of music in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey) under the aegis of producer Bob Magnuson (no to be mistaken with LA bassist Bob Magnusson) & engineer Al Perrota, who also mixed and mastered the project. One of the many highlights is a sensual bossa-novaed take on Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me A Bedtime Story"; the best reading of this Herbie tune since Quincy Jones/Harry Lookofsky's landmark recording on Q's "Sounds...and Stuff Like That."

Soulful, swinging, charming and passionate, without pretense, the session also includes outstanding versions of two Wayne Shorter tunes ("Speak No Evil," featuring Lewis Nash, and "Dance Cadaverous") plus a medium-tempo "Love for Sale" (Cole Porter), a quick & dazzling intense "Daahoud" (Clifford Brown, with Longo quoting Jobim's "Desafinado" on his bright solo, followed by Nash's burnin' improvisation), the latin-jazz anthem "Morning" (Clare Fischer), "Speak Low" (Kurt Weill), three Mike Longo originals (showcasing the inner voices of his bop soul on "Bird Seed", his deep-song bossa baladry on "Someone to Love" and his captivating rhythmic sense on a bluesy "Checked Bags" in tribute to Milt Jackson), closing with a superb solo rendition of "Kush," written by his musical guru Dizzy Gillespie, with whom he played for 14 years, creating an indelible, crystalline piano sound.

There's also a "West Side Story Medley" (Leonard Bernstein, starting with "Tonight" and going through "Somewhere" and "I Feel Pretty"), inspired by his piano teacher, a Canadian musical giant named Oscar Peterson. "During the 60s I had the distinct honor of being a private student with the great Peterson," Mike tell us in the liner notes. "He was gracious enough to invite me to his home in Toronto where he had a recording studio in his basement. He was about to record his famous 'West Side Story' album (Verve, 1962) with his trio that consisted of Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums. Oscar asked me if I would like to come and observe them rehearsing. I, of course jumped at the chance and needless to say was blown away at the process I witnessed while they were putting it together."

"My other great mentor was Dizzy Gillespie from which I learned, among other things, a poly-metric concept of time. As a challenge to myself, I recorded his famous example of this called 'Kush' as a solo piano track." The CD is dedicated to the memory of Longo's father, Mike Longo, Sr. who passed away in 2009. Essential.
Mike Longo has performed with a list of jazz legends that include Cannonball Adderley, Henry Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, George Wettling, Gene Krupa, Nancy Wilson, Gloria Lynn, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Williams, Jimmy Rushing, James Moody and many others. It was in the mid-60s when Longo’s trio was playing at the Embers West, that Roy Eldridge told Dizzy Gillespie about this new pianist he had heard. Dizzy came to hear him play and soon asked him to become his pianist.

This started a life-long musical relationship and friendship. From 1966 through 1975, Longo worked exclusively as Dizzy’s pianist and musical director. Mike left the Gillespie group officially in 1975 to venture out on his own, but continued to work for Gillespie on a part-time basis until his death in 1993. Since that time Mike has recorded numerous albums and CDs on various labels with some 45 recordings with artists such as Gillespie, James Moody, Astrud Gilberto etc. At present he has over 20 solo albums to his credit. He is sought after as a music instructor and is in demand for jazz clinics and concerts at universities and music schools throughout the world, and has appeared at the Lincoln Center’s new jazz room “Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.”

Longo is founder and President of Consolidated Artists Productions (CAP), an independent recording label, dedicated to allowing artists to pursue the types of projects that are in line with their career objectives. All of the artists represented by CAP (over 70) are extraordinarily talented, both as composers and performers. Longo’s latest venture, Jazz Tuesdays, is dedicated to allowing artists to retain creative control of their work and providing students and the general public with an opportunity to hear “world class jazz at affordable prices.”

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