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January/February 2008

Roy Meriwether
Live at Gilly’s
American Jazz

Roy Meriwether has lived in New York since 1976, but in jazz terms he is the favorite son of Dayton, Ohio. This album documents a return to his hometown and its venerable jazz club, Gilly’s.

Meriwether is a born crowd-pleaser. He does not offer many ideas that have not been heard before, but he plays piano with facility and life-affirming infectious enthusiasm. He creates full, solid, two-handed, extended architectures upon pieces like “I’m Confessin’” and “The Sidewalks of New York.” He is in his natural element when he plays the blues (“St. James Infirmary”) and gospel, although the album’s most ambitious piece, the latter-day gospel “Jesus Christ Superstar,” is unsuccessful. At almost 18 minutes, it is bombastic and overblown and contains every lick and trick and flourish that Meriwether knows.

An evening with Meriwether holding forth in his hometown club should be entertaining. Unfortunately, this recording captures none of the atmosphere of the live event. Crowd reaction is faint and quickly faded at the end of every track.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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