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Darwin Gross: Soul Speaks/Happy Blues

Vibraphonist Darwin Gross had the good fortune-and the good sense-to hire outstanding players to accompany him on the several recording sessions that comprise this album. In fact, veteran guitarist Rodney Jones, who appears as part of three different rhythm sections, is the consistent star of this collection of Gross compositions-all blues but one. These blues come in all kinds of tempos and styles, but whatever the approach, the former Dizzy Gillespie guitarist demonstrates a comfortable command of the idiom. In addition to the leader and Jones, one date features the extraordinary trio-also Gillespie alumni-of pianist John Lewis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Mickey Roker; another uses the equally stellar threesome of Hank Jones on piano, Victor Gaskin on bass and Roker; while the third brings in pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Stan Poplin and drummer Ken Windholz. To single out just one of the disc’s high spots, John Lewis’ simple, single-line solo on the slow “Blues of the Masters” would alone justify the tune’s title. Although Gross’ own Milt Jackson-influenced playing neither rhythmically nor melodically rises to the level of that of his illustrious cohorts, he has produced a satisfying recording of fine straightahead jazz.

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