Maye_span3
March 2006

The Earl May Quartet
Swinging the Blues
Arbors Records

Veteran bassist Earl May demonstrates a lot more stylistic versatility than might be expected on this 13-song debut. He certainly excels on the prerock standards and swing staples, particularly the Basie/Durham title cut as well as "Tea for Two," "My Foolish Heart" and "My Old Flame." But what distinguishes this from being just another extremely professional but rather derivative set is how the quartet operates when the tone shifts into other areas. May's just as solid in his playing on the Charlie Parker vehicle "Confirmation" and on alto saxophonist David Glasser's originals such as "Blue Iridescence" and "Under African Skies," where the changes and chord structures are quite different from the basic swing styling. Guest pianist Barry Harris brings some harmonic flair and fervor to "Tea for Two" and "My Old Flame," but May and drummer Eddie Locke are quite up to the challenge. Glasser ably fulfills many roles throughout the date, being sentimental on "Blame It on My Youth," flashy on "Swinging the Blues" and "Confirmation" and explosive on "Lester Leaps In," not quite duplicating the energy of the original (no one could match Pres) but certainly communicating the passion on alto that Young brought to the tenor.

Originally published in March 2006
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