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Gerald Albright/Will Downing: Pleasures of the Night

Pleasures of the Night (Verve Forecast VER CD 39; 52:11) is just what the doctor ordered for the terribly talented, but too often stuck-in-a-rut Gerald Albright. Pleasures teams the ubiquitous sax man with vocalist Will Downing for an often stirring exploration of the links between musical influences-executed in an old style of play which is elegant, romantic and beautifully arranged. Both Albright and Downing make themselves at home in comfortable, old-fashioned orchestral arrangements like “The Nearness of You,” finding Albright at his expressive best on smoky tenor. Downing’s honey-thick baritone is rich and resonant, embracing and shaping the lyrics. Bridging the gap between modern compositions and more traditional jazz styles are clever covers of pop gems like the Beatles’ “Michelle,” with a blithely swinging, joyful arrangement (and a ripping good Albright solo!), and Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love,” delivered with a hesitant timing to give an edgy, dark tone. A gorgeous arrangement of breath-infused tenor stark against acoustic piano, “We’ll Be Together Again” is at the album’s heart-a classic-styled, almost Coltrane-like performance, with a thoroughly modern sensibility.

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