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John Cocuzzi Quintet: Swingin’ and Burnin’

When this album’s good, it’s very, very good; when it goes south, it goes deep, deep south. There is definitely chemistry between vibist Joe Cocuzzi and clarinetist Allan Vache, and it makes tracks such as “Benny’s Bugle” and “Broadway” swing with a Goodmanesque elan. The album’s highlight is on the latter: two choruses of rhythm-section free vibes and clarinet blues noodling-pure contrapuntal joy. “Black and Blue” has many poignant moments and “Comes Love” really sparkles, with its Latin and straightahead approaches, especially Vache’s jazz chorus. The only collaboration that fails is “Slipped Disc,” which has a surprisingly mechanical unison head.

Cocuzzi’s Latin comping behind guitarist Steve Abshire on “Cheek to Cheek”-a montuno on vibes-is inspired. Truly inspired is Abshire on “Ghost of a Chance.” But Cocuzzi’s vocals drag down the quartet and nullify his efforts on piano, suggesting that without Vache, the album would have been meaningless.

Originally Published