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March 2006

The Brian Swartz Quartet featuring Bob Florence
Live at the Jazz Bakery
Summit

Swartz's support comes from the power-in-reserve rhythm section of Bob Florence's big band. There is something about Florence's piano playing that attracts adventurous young trumpet players. His occasional partnership with Ingrid Jensen has produced memorable moments. He and Swartz also meld well and strike sparks. When Swartz goes on risky little harmonic side trips away from the changes, as he does on "All the Things You Are" and "Star Eyes," a less calm and assured pianist would be tempted to go off into space with him, and neither might get back alive. Florence gives Swartz plenty of slack but keeps him tethered to the ship.

Bassist Trey Henry and drummer Dick Weller fit the modus operandi, swinging freely but firmly. Henry gets plenty of solo space. Henry deserves plenty of solo space. Florence's soloing here is on a level with his best recorded playing. As for Swartz, he goes for unorthodox sequences of notes without sacrificing a sense of melodic line that is reminiscent of Art Farmer's or Tom Harell's. His vehicles for these adventures are standards, giving his audience something familiar to hold on to. He and Florence give them a nearly unalloyed "Stardust," and a fine gift it is.

Originally published in March 2006
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