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May 2004

Greg Skaff
Blues for Mr. T
Khaeon

The "Mr. T" of the title is the late tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, guitarist Greg Skaff's employer for five years. Skaff has also worked with Gloria Lynne, Ruth Brown and Freddie Hubbard and currently plucks for Bobby Watson. He's an in-the-pocket player with plenty of harmonic knowledge and instrumental facility, and this album-with organist Mike Le Donne and drummer Joe Farnsworth-is on the adventurous side of down-home.

"Baku," a Skaff tune based on the chords of "Yesterdays," opens the set. The guitarist's long improvised lines and harmonic alterations effectively disguise the original chord progression. "Rambler," the title cut and "Poundcake," more Skaff originals, are all blues. "Delphia," a Hubbard composition, begins in a lovely ballad mood and then switches to a gospel feeling. Ellington and Strayhorn's "Isfahan" is the only true ballad on the album.

The trio approaches its material obliquely at times, thereby avoiding a too-cliched modus operandi. An example: Skaff's "Highway 54" is in 5/4 time, but the group's comfort with the time signature doesn't belabor the point. Likewise, its blues playing contains little twists and turns that go beyond the basic structure.

Blues for Mr. T is a nice set by mature, thinking players.

Originally published in May 2004
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