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Jon Metzger Quartet: The Spinner

Numerous jazz vibraphone players have emerged since Lionel Hampton debuted in the 1930s on this instrument that affords marginal flexibility for making distinctive statements. On his fourth album as leader, vibraphonist Jon Metzger follows the tradition, mixing it up with his sidemen to deliver ten ballads to blues originals. Playing vibes and marimba, Metzger uses a relaxed, swinging, single-line approach with two-mallets (sometimes shading with four). On his Musser vibes, Metzger varies mallet size and type, using small, hard mallets to create crisp, sharp-edged sounds, and larger mallets for plump, warm-toned expressions. Contributing to this agreeable 1996 date are lyrical pianist Keith Waters, bassist James King and drummer Tony Martucci. Best moments are Metzger’s marimba-piano duet with Waters on the light-swaying, sometimes lumbering, “Elephant Walk,” and “The L Bell,” a righteous swinger which offers Metzger’s engaging, blues-tinged, vibes solo behind Martucci’s shuffle rhythms. Metzger’s “inside” musicianship shines. So does his ability to compose attractive melodies, a talent that largely contributes to the success of this session.

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