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November 1997

Jack Sheldon
Playing for Change
Uptown

Jack Sheldon-TV actor, antic vocalist and cut-up extraordinaire-also happens to be one hell of a trumpeter. Here, in a superb session from 1986, we get a telling reminder of just how compelling the Sheldon jazz persona is. It's a no-nonsense date with a challengingly off-beat repertory (Curtis Fuller's "Trane's Strain," Cecil Payne's "Follow Me" and Tadd Dameron's "The Chase," for instance), and a solid supporting cast of altoist Jerry Dodgion, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Ben Riley.

Whatever the tempo, and there are some scorchers, it's Sheldon's gorgeous tone and plucky melodism that impresses first, last and always. Sheldon, of course, is one of jazz's most gifted balladeers, and in "Angel Eyes" we hear his great heart sing. Like Clark Terry, Sheldon is also a master of muted mid-tempo strolling, an appealing attribute brought to the fore in a bubbly take on "That Old Feeling." Throughout, the band cooks at a simmer apropos to the session's dialogic intimacy. It's serious fun at the mainstream summit.

Originally published in November 1997
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