After You, Jeru
Fresh Sound Records
The veteran alto saxophonist concentrates on pieces reflecting the melodic and harmonic skills that deepened in Gerry Mulligan throughout his career. They include "Night Lights" and "Theme for Jobim" from the 1960s, "Song for Strayhorn," "Idol Gossip" and "North Atlantic Run" from the '70s, "I Hear the Shadows Dancing" and "Rico Apollo" from the '80s, and "O Great Spirit" from the '90s. Shank's selections from Mulligan's treasure house of compositions include only a couple of warhorses, "Line for Lyons" and "Bark for Barksdale," from Mulligan's early quartet days. "Bark for Barksdale" is done pretty much as Mulligan recorded it with Chet Baker, but Shank does not treat "Line for Lyons" as the perky neo-jump tune Mulligan conceived. He does it, most affectingly, as a ballad with bossa nova leanings. It is a mark of Shank's compositional ability that his tribute tune, "After You, Jeru," keeps comfortable company with the Mulligan pieces. It is a ballad that evokes Mulligan's style and persona. It is capable of making its way into the standard repertoire.
Shank employs the same rhythm section as in his The Music of Bill Evans (FSR 5012), pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Joe LaBarbera. Their responsiveness to one another and support of Shank make this one of the most cohesive and stimulating bands at work today. Wofford, Magnusson and LaBarbera solo at their usual high level. Production and packaging are top notch. The 32-page booklet contains informative essays by Alun Morgan, Gene Lees, Gordon Jack and producer Dick Bank. Shank's expressivity grows as he swings into his seventies, apparently with increasing energy and endurance.