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Donnie O’Brien: Meets Manhattan Swing: In a Basie Mood

Donnie O’Brien, a journeyman drummer in the New York area since the early 1970s, tackles tunes from the Count Basie canon on his long overdue recording debut, Meets Manhattan Swing: In a Basie Mood (Arbors). O’Brien acquits himself nicely in the company of venerable, refined swingmeisters like guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, pianist John Bunch, bassist Jay Leonhart and the wonderful Coleman Hawkins-influenced tenor sax player Carmen Leggio. Together they swing lightly and politely on relaxed renditions of Basie chestnuts like “One O’Clock Jump,” “Blue and Sentimental,” “Moten Swing,” “Jive at Five” and “Lester Leaps In” (an uptempo showcase for the 76-and-still-killing Leggio).

The 82-year-old Bunch captures the pianistic spirit of the Count in his sparse comping while O’Brien cops the appropriate Jo Jones attitude throughout. Pizzarelli plays it strictly like Freddie Green, keeping perfect time on rhythm guitar while overdubbing great guitar solos on Gus Kahn’s “I Never Knew,” Illinois Jacquet’s “Robbins Nest” and “Moten Swing.” His guitar-playing son John is the guest soloist on the driving jam vehicle “Lester Leaps In.” Both Leggio and Bunch turn in particularly moving performances on “Body and Soul.” And bassist Leonhart shines on “Jive at Five,” stating the melody upfront before heading into his infectiously syncopated walking groove.

Originally Published