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Bob Lark and Friends : Suggestions

Chicago-based musician-educator Bob Lark is a fine mainstream modern trumpeter-flugelhornist with three well-received albums to his credit. His fourth finds him in the company of three top-notch, like-minded Chicago colleagues and a well-known former Chicagoan. Pianist-composer Jim McNeely, who left the city for New York several decades ago, is the most widely known among them, but tenor saxophonist Mark Colby, bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Joel Spencer have performed and recorded extensively with high-profile musicians. Each of them has appeared on earlier Lark albums.

On some of the tracks, like Lark’s own title tune and his blues “Old School,” for example, the group functions much like a 1960s hard-bop quintet, with the leader’s improvising style evoking the Blue Note trumpeters of that era. On four standards (“Lover Man,” “Joy Spring,” “A Child Is Born” and “All the Way”), however, Lark picks up his flugelhorn for lyrical duets with McNeely, whose brilliant, expressive solo on Thad Jones’ “A Child Is Born” is a highlight of the album. Lark’s poignant reading of the melody of “All the Way” closes the program on a quiet note.

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