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Joe Augustine: Cool Today, Jazz Tonight

Pianist Joe Augustine is smiling broadly on the cover of his album Cool Today, Jazz Tonight (1201 Music 6012-2; 50:40), and his expression reflects the recording’s overall feel: this is an album on which good humor predominates.

A dexterous pianist with a command of a wide range of styles, Augustine performs both original compositions and standards on Cool Today, Jazz Tonight, and he reenvisions the standards in innovative-and mostly upbeat-ways. When singer Peggy Lee recorded “Fever,” she infused it with plenty of sultry smolder; here, Augustine picks up the tempo and mood, and yet manages not to lose the feel of the song. Elsewhere, “Peel Me a Grape” gets a jazzy, bright-at times, forceful-treatment. Augustine’s originals also demonstrate his broad-ranging aptitude: He opens the album with the peppy, swinging “Groove Attitude,” turns in a playful, fleet-fingered performance on the high-spirited “Samba de Boyz” and waxes romantically lyrical on the ballad “(On This) Special Day.” The pianist closes the album on a dramatic note with “No More Tears,” which reveals his facility in both classical and jazz idioms.

Augustine’s excellent backup band-drummer Chester Thompson, guitarist Denny Jiosa, percussionist Glen Caruba and bassist Steve Novosel-joins him in conveying the impression that it’s enjoying playing this music. Cool Today, Jazz Tonight is the work of accomplished artists who obviously take music very seriously, but who aren’t afraid to have fun with it.

Originally Published