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Grover Mitchell: Grover Mitchell Big Band

When you pay homage to Grover Mitchell-the man who fronted the Count Basie ghost band for the last eight years of his life before he died in August 2003-the last thing you want to use is an out-of-tune piano! But on Grover Mitchell Big Band (Storyville), the second of the CD’s four sessions hamstrings (pun intended) poor Jeannie Cheatham with a defective instrument as she whacks away at five of Mitchell’s 17 charts, not to mention the spirit of Basie, which looms large over these 1978 to 1980 sessions.

Helping to compensate for this oversight are the tradeoffs between tenorists Charles Owens and Jackie Kelso on “Groove’s Blues,” the smooth trumpeting of Al Aarons, the incredible, supportive walking of bassist Red Callender, the enthusiastic drive of drummer Duffy Jackson and the fluid solo statements of Lanny Morgan on alto. He takes “The Devil’s Waltz” and cleverly interpolates Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” into it. Cheatham discovers Morgan is a tough act to follow, but on “Hot Chocolate,” Owens and Morgan are on the same bop page.

Originally Published