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June 2006

The Howard Alden-Dan Barrett Quintet
Live in '95

Here’s a combo that typifies everything right about jazz: good writing, clever voicings and an exuberant group sound with excellent solos by everyone in the quintet. So the end result is happy, straightahead, multistyle swing.

The band’s genre-hopping is heard immediately with a John Kirby-flavored intimacy on “9:20 Special.” That’s followed by the Benny Carter tune “When Lights Are Low,” with contrapuntal lines running through the first chorus and Alden chordally interpolating Woody Herman’s famous “Four Brothers” interlude in the release. From there the band switches to Monk for his seldom-heard “Ask Me Now,” a gorgeous ballad with the two-five changes musicians love to improvise on.

The band has put together a collection of songs that draws all possible colors from Alden’s guitar, Barrett’s trombone, Chuck Wilson’s alto and clarinet, Frank Tate’s bass and Jackie Williams’ drums. The highlight is “Perdido,” which features a well-executed unison bop line. Halfway through the album, the quintet brings on singer Terrie Richards, who boasts fine intonation. Her best effort is the neglected oldie “That Old Feeling,” and she even resuscitates its intro.

Originally published in June 2006
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