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Darrell Grant: Smokin’ Java

The song titles on pianist and composer Darrell Grant’s live date Smokin’ Java hardly allude to coffee. But there’s a lovely story involving the late great Leroy Vinnegar that will fill you in. Luckily for those who don’t read lengthy liner notes, the music is simply divine.

Robust, with an espresso kick, but without the caffeinated jitters, Smokin’ Java is a swinging set of brisk originals like the title track, and lesser-known compositions penned by others, like Bill Lee’s moody “Little Jimmy Fiddler.” All the compositions benefit greatly from Grant’s full chords and elegant phrasing. He never seems rushed to make a grand statement; instead he eases inside a composition like a veteran and savors each melodic bit. Donald Harrison’s spiked alto and Joe Locke’s shimmering vibraphone add just the right jolt, while the supple rhythm section of drummer Brian Blade and bassist Bob Stata steers the ensemble with ample swing. Whether it’s Carmen Lundy’s misty “Quiet Times” or Grant’s optimistic “Spring Skylight,” Smokin’ Java warms the heart with each melodic drop.

Originally Published