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Lew Soloff: With a Son in My Heart

Before he had his 30 bars of pop fame on Blood Sweat & Tears’ 1968 hit record of “Spinning Wheel,” Lew Soloff was seasoned in the bands of Machito, Maynard Ferguson, Gil Evans, and Clark Terry. Since, he has developed steadily and often played rings around better known trumpeters (see Trumpet Legacy, Milestone 9286). There is no doubt-certainly none among trumpet players-that Soloff is one of the greatest trumpeters alive. Still, the general jazz audience is likely to think of him as a section player or a high-note specialist. There is plenty of evidence of his ability as an improviser, but until now it was scattered through other people’s albums or in expensive imported CDs. Soloff’s recordings with the Manhattan Jazz Quintet on Japanese labels contained some of the most impressive trumpet improvising of the 1980s. The challenge is to find them.

Given the distribution and promotion power of the Fantasy group, With a Song in My Heart may bring Soloff into the consciousness of listeners who have overlooked or underrated him. They will have to settle for beautiful music-making because the CD does not contain a shred of brass exhibitionism or bravura display. He shows his technical command and experience by melding rhythmic force, lyricism and the wisdom of quietness. Even at the brisk clip of the title song, he refuses to fill every available space with the grace notes, triplets, filagree and bric-a-brac that clog the work of so many trumpeters. Passing notes and turnarounds count for something or he does not play them. One of several stunning examples of his restraint and thoughtfulness comes in bars 13-17 of his solo on “The Way You Look Tonight,” in which he galvanizes attention by playing a total of only four perfectly placed notes separated by silence.

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