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Charlie Shoemake Trios: Lands End

Soft-spoken Charlie Shoemake can be quite vocal, not only as vibist and teacher, but as a spokesman for his colleagues. As he told liner annotator Zan Stewart, “being on the West Coast seems to make us second class in the eyes of the jazz media, but I know we play as well as anyone.”

He’s probably right about the first part of his statement; he’s right on about the second half. His two trios here prove it. The brief addition of altoist Charles McPherson helps most eloquently.

The material is pure bop, much of it highly intellectual, but there isn’t a moment devoid of straightahead swing: “Little Melonae,” by Jackie McLean, which sounds like the dissection of an F 11th chord; complex lines by Lennie Tristano (“Crosscurrent”), Kenny Drew (“Contour”) and Harold Land (“Lands End”). But in the hands of the rhythm sections Shoemake has recruited, everything flows.

In one, Bruce Forman proves how formidable he is on guitar. He is paired with a great choice on bass, Bob Maize. The other trio includes a monster bassist, Luther Hughes, and drummer Paul Kreibich, who is always locked in to Hughes. McPherson can be heard with the latter trio on a cooking version of “Two Bass Hit” and the title track, on which manages to sneak in a quote from “Heart and Soul” in a minor mode.

Another highlight is the lovely, introspective, fluid playing by Shoemake on the neglected Nacio Herb Brown tune, “Alone.” Hard to believe it came from a Marx Brothers flick.

Originally Published