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September 2006

Marty Grosz
Marty Grosz and His Hot Combination
Arbors Records

The irrepressible Grosz—guitarist, singer, comedian and raconteur—heads a most compatible and entertaining entourage on this delightful album. The Hot Combination consists of trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, reedmen Ken Peplowski and Scott Robinson, pianist James Dapogny, drummer Arnie Kinsella and bassist Greg Cohen or Vince Giordano (who also plays bass saxophone on two tracks). The performances have the feeling of a loosely arranged yet free-wheeling session in which ensemble passages and solos flow convivially and thematically from one to the other. Everyone’s individual voice and musical character shines.

Grosz’s horn charts make use of an array of reeds—tenor sax and clarinet (Peplowski), baritone and C-melody sax (Robinson) plus the aforementioned bass sax. In addition, on “If It Ain’t Love” Robinson and Dapogny switch to cornet, giving the ensemble a brass trio. Rather than block voicings all the time, he often has the top line and the bottom line moving to and away from each other (as on Duke Ellington’s “Alabamy Home”). Grosz sets up two performances— “Just a Gigolo” (which he sings in German) and “English Blues” —with long verbal intros (i.e., stories).

The rhythm section gets a Count Basie-like “washing machine” swing feeling throughout much of the set, with Grosz’s rhythm guitar cutting through warmly. Of course, the hornmen swing heartily, too, especially on “Four or Five Times,” which the band jammed without benefit of a chart. There is much to praise here.

Originally published in September 2006
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