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Dick Sudhalter: Melodies heard.. Melodies sweet

Sudhalter’s main man is Bix Beiderbecke (in his prolific other life, he co-authored the best Beiderbecke biography), but his trumpet has a Louis Armstrong aspect that shimmers through many of these pieces. In addition, lately he has been known to lay in little intimations of bebop. On six tracks, the band is Sudhalter and Roger Kellaway, a pianist for all seasons who functions here more as collaborator than accompanist. They take a joyous romp through the 1935 hit “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe,” with a passionate series of four-bar exchanges and plenty of attention to the celebrated Beiderbecke ad-lib that Matty Malneck and Johnny Mercer wrote into the song.

All of the pieces are songs by jazz musicans. The collection begins with Artie Shaw’s “Love of My Life” and ends with Fats Waller’s “Blue Turning Grey Over You.” Sudhalter and Kellaway caress Ellington’s “Black Butterfly,” and Armstrong’s “If We Never Meet Again,” trumpet and piano floating along on great melodies. Their work together is equally agreeable on Benny Carter’s “Only Trust Your Heart” and Kellaway’s “I’m Smiling Again.” In a quintet nicely arranged by Sy Johnson, Sudhalter is blithely muted in Gerry Mulligan’s little-known waltz “Summer’s Over.” He employs gentle growls, smears and Bobby Hackett allusions in a Billy Strayhorn rarity, “Multicolored Blue.” Johnson’s arrangement of the Strayhorn suggests the Ellington small bands. His use of trumpet-vibes and guitar-vibes unison lines is effective in several pieces, including Red Norvo’s, “Everywhere I Go,” a harmonic treasure house.

Vibraharpist Ed Saindon, bassist Marshall Wood, drummer Joe Cocuzzo, and guitarists Frank Vignola and James Chirillo round out the basic supporting cast. Johnson plays piano on two tracks and Barbara Lea sings on two in this relaxed Sudhalter collection, which is given over to melody and melodic improvisation.

Originally Published