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September 2006

Chuck Redd
Remembers Barney Kessel: Happy All the Time
Arbors Records

Chuck Redd started his musical career as a drummer, but during his time with Charlie Byrd’s trio he also built up his vibraphone skills. For his second vibes-centered disc, Redd pays homage to guitarist Barney Kessel, with whom he played from 1980 to 1991. With bassist Hassan Shakur as a mainstay, Redd brings in a revolving cast of players who dig into 12 songs associated with their subject, keeping the music lively and exciting.

Like any solid tribute album, Happy All the Time doesn’t attempt to recreate the sound of Kessel’s work so much as channel his spirit. Therefore, only seven tracks feature the guitar of either Howard Alden or Gene Bertoncini. Pianists Monty Alexander or Robert Redd (Chuck’s brother) appear on all but three.

Leading the way, Redd avoids fast runs across his instrument in favor of strong melodic phrases that lean on the midtempo and middle register. The one exception comes in his original title track, where he starts things off at a flying pace. As much as drummer Jeff Hamilton locks in with Shakur to push this group, Redd is the one doing the driving when he gets behind the drums on “64 Bars on Wilshire” (with Alden) and “Li’l Darlin’” (with Bertoncini). The choice of material also sounds especially inspired, from reworkings of perennials such as “Laura” and “Tenderly” to Kessel’s own “Swedish Pastry” and “Slow Burn.”

Originally published in September 2006
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