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January/February 1998

Don Lanphere
Don Still Loves Midge
HEP Records

This sequel to Lanphere's 1983 Don Loves Midge finds the saxophonist lean and lyrical. He plays less than he did in his bebop youth and through most of his career. Now, he emphasizes melodic shape rather than filigrees of passing notes. The self-editing pays off; this is some of his most attractive work. Lanphere's economy of style enhances accessibility as well as musicality. Then there's the matter of his sound. His tenor has deeper tones than it used to, his soprano wider ones. In "Blues for Midge," he makes an unaccustomed appearance on alto sax, the horn blending effectively in the unison melody with Dave Peterson's guitar. On Lalo Schifrin's "The Right to Love," his chesty tenor floats on the fullness of Jim Knapp's arrangement for an ensemble of horns.

The tunes were chosen by Mrs. Lanphere (Midge of the title). They include 13 standards that haven't been done to death, three of them in a medley called "Seldom Heard Sinatra." There are also two originals by Lanphere and one by bassist Doug Miller. The sidemen's performances are further proof that the Pacific Northwest is home to a solid corps of jazz artists. Lanphere's longtime sidekick Jon Pugh has switched from trumpet to cornet. He may have found his true voice. Pugh uses the horn to great effect in his a capella introduction of "London By Night" and in his feature, "Just The Way You Are." Throughout, there are impressive solos from trombonist Jeff Hay, guitarist Peterson and pianist Marc Seales, who has a lovely trio feature on "Prelude to a Kiss."

Originally published in January/February 1998
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