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January/February 2004

Randy Sandke
Cliffhanger
Nagel-Heyer

Four years after its recording date, Randy Sandke's Cliffhanger (Nagel-Heyer) is finally out, and does it swing. Mulgrew Miller, working with Sandke for the first (and, so far, the only) time, holds the piano chair. Peter and Kenny Washington make up the rhythm section; trombonist Wycliffe Gordon guests on the title track. Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen is outstanding on the nine out of 12 cuts on which he appears. Sandke splits his time between flugelhorn and trumpet, displaying a bright, brassy tone on the latter. Standards predominate, although the leader includes his minor-key swinger "One for Mulgrew," his Blakey-esque, three-horn vehicle "Cliffhanger" and his lilting waltz "One Fine Day in May." Save for "No Moon at All," the tunes are all fairly common choices, but they smolder at every tempo, whether fast ("Limehouse Blues," "Let's Face the Music and Dance"), slow ("What's New," "I Fall in Love Too Easily"), or in between ("Come Rain or Come Shine," "I Concentrate on You" and more). Some might find 72 minutes rather long for a standards-heavy program such as this, but the collective strength of the band makes the disc worthy of sustained attention.

Originally published in January/February 2004
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