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08/06/12

Ben Powell
New Street

There is something about the tone, the delicate but assured touch, the unique vibrato and soaring filigrees of Ben Powell’s violin playing that immediately conjure up memories of Stephane Grappelli. It’s apparent in the warmly lyrical ballad “Judith” that opens this impressive collection by Powell’s quartet (pianist Tadataka Unno, bassist Aaron Darrell and drummer Devin Drobka), but even more evident in three trio tunes featuring vibraphonist Gary Burton and guitarist Julian Lage: the lilting “Gary,” written for the vibes great by Grappelli in 1969; the wistful ballad “La Chanson des Rues”; and Grappelli’s swinging “Piccadilly Stomp.”

Powell stakes out his own territory on “Monk 4 Strings” and the modernist, time-shifting title track, then engages in fiery call-and-response with Gyspy guitarist Adrien Moignard on a Hot Club-inspired romp through “What Is This Thing Called Love?” There’s also a graceful classical piece, “Sea Shell,” and an alluring bossa-nova arrangement of “La Vie en Rose,” sung in French by Boston vocalist Linda Calise.

Originally published in July/August 2012
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