To My Surprise
You get the feeling in listening to Mike Longo that the pianist is always in complete control of his performances: no errant phrases, no unintended rhythms or ill-timed placement of notes, no treading water in his choruses. His playing aligns with the swinging clarity and well-organized declarations of pianists such as Sonny Clark and Barry Harris; as a veteran of the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet (1966-’75), Longo is thoroughly grounded in rhythm. These attributes are manifest throughout this mainstream session with veteran bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash, plus, on six of the 12 tracks, guests Jimmy Owens on trumpet and Lance Bryant on tenor saxophone. Five of the tunes are Longo originals.
Longo’s “A Picture of Dorian Mode” is an uptempo opener with aggressive solos by the horns and pianist. “New Muse Blues,” another original for the full group, is a rolling, punctuated, feel-good line that sets up soulful solos. On Longo’s “Alone Again,” a minor-key bossa nova, the horns interact in mellow counterlines and Owens constructs a choice solo statement. Ray Noble’s “I Hadn’t Anyone ’Til You,” an easygoing trio track with drum fills, contains a Longo solo notable for its sequential and developmental lines. The trio successfully ventures into more modern territory with Wayne Shorter’s “Limbo” and Herbie Hancock’s “Eye of the Hurricane.” Together, these performances argue that there’s still plenty of room in the bebop and early postbop traditions for the imagination to express itself. Longo and his committed cohorts show how it’s done.