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January/February 1998

Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan with Strings
Criss Cross Jazz

Albums featuring jazz soloists backed by lush string arrangements used to be all the rage in the 1950s but you seldom hear one these days. Baritone saxophonist Smulyan and arranger Bob Belden revive the style with happy results. Smulyan certainly has what it takes to put the project over. His big, dark Pepper Adams-like tone contrasts pleasingly with the tasteful string charts Belden provides. He also respects the themes, playing them with warmth and care, and turns in melodically attractive improvisation.

The selection of tunes also makes a lot of sense; they're pretty and haven't been overexposed.

The rhythm section of pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington plays infectiously and LeDonne contributes strongly swinging, cleanly articulated solos.

Originally published in January/February 1998
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