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December 2006

Bob Lark-Phil Woods Quintet
In Her Eyes
Jazzed Media

Trumpeter and flugelhorn player Lark, Chair of the Jazz Studies Department at DePaul, teams up with Woods and the Woods Quintet rhythm section (pianist Jim McNeely, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin) on this disc. Lark is a superb bebop player (reminiscent of Carl Saunders, as label owner Graham Carter observes in the liner notes). Should Woods ever need a replacement for trumpeter Brian Lynch in the Quintet, Lark would fit nicely.

The tunes, including six composed by Lark, are fit for a bebop feast. The trumpeter plays with exuberance, skill and feeling. (He occasionally reminds me of Howard McGhee, especially on the opening “It’s You or No One.”) Charlie Parker’s “Charlie’s Wig” and Lark’s “As a Lark” bring back memories of the early bop sides of Bird and Dizzy (or Miles). There are Latin numbers here, too—Lark’s “Abruzzi,” “Mad Dan’s” and “Roatan”—and a couple of warm, enticing Woods compositions: “Q’s Delight” and “Bouquet Chorale.” Lark tailors his playing to the thematic mood of each.

Woods and company demonstrate the ensemble and solo benefits of many years of performing together. The alto saxophonist still dazzles with his fleet inventiveness (melodic sequences, double-time passages, drive and tonal expressiveness). McNeely, Gilmore and Goodwin swing with an agreeable looseness. They have bebop in their bones, it seems. This fine album is another artful lesson from the pros.

Originally published in December 2006
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