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May 2000

Mike Longo and New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble
Explosion
Consolidated Artists

This stimulating big band recording by the pianist and arranger Mike Longo is a reminder that the best jazz in New York these days is not necessarily made by marketable youngsters promoted by major labels. Longo's ensemble is salted with seasoned musicians who share his long and balanced view of the bop and post-bop tradition. As an indication of the band's prestige, it also attracts such enfants terribles as trumpeters Ryan Kisor, Seneca Black and Greg Gisbert, who are content to play parts in the section and let the solos go to veterans Virgil Jones, Burt Collins and Joe Shepley.
Reflecting Longo's close association with Dizzy Gillespie, the repertoire includes his complex arrangements of Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" and "Kush." He also has fresh takes on "Eternal Triangle" and "Along Came Betty," tunes he played with Gillespie. Without imitating him, he honors Gillespie arranger Gil Fuller in "Blue Gil." Similarly, he avoids the powerful arranging precedents of Gil Evans and Bill Potts to bring originality to a medley from "Porgy and Bess." Longo's intricate 6/4 "Frisco," with its boogalo leanings, and the waltz "Dancing on the Moon" are further indications of his craftsmanship.
Jones has most of the trumpet solos, but Shepley slips out of his lead role for a fine one on "Tunisia." Other soloists are saxophonists Lee Greene, Matt Snyder and Frank Perowsky; trombonists Sam Burtis and Bob Suttmann; guitarist Adam Rafferty, and Longo. Lyn Christie, long little-known for so impressive a bassist, bows the featured solo on a joyful arrangement of "Younger Than Springtime." Good solos. Good arrangements. Good band.

Originally published in May 2000
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