Lew Soloff and Company: Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain is a current example of a blowing session, featuring groove-oriented material, including a number of songs borrowed from the rock arena (Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” John Fogerty’s “Born on the Bayou,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Up From the Skies”).

The album rewards casual listening, mainly due to the high skill level and musicality of the participants. Soloff has been one of the best and most complete jazz trumpeters on the scene for a very long time, while Lou Marini, best known for his appearance in the first Blues Brothers movie, comes across well on saxes and flute, and contributes a lovely ballad, “Starmaker.”

Joe Beck’s tastefully chorused guitar is the glue that holds the ensemble together, while electric bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb (the Sly & Robbie of groove jazz) keep the beat lively while avoiding monotony.

This CD would make a good gift for someone who harbors the typical prejudices against jazz: that it’s boring, old-fashioned or lacking in connections to post-rock musical culture. In New York, you occasionally hear young groups playing in a style similar to this, but seldom at such length, or as masterfully. As for whether this is jazz or pop, I can’t put it any more eloquently than Chip Stern did in his excellent liner notes.