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Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Oasis

The third CD by the big band of longtime Dizzy Gillespie pianist, arranger and music director Mike Longo features the leader’s well-crafted compositions and arrangements performed with elan by a top-flight cadre of New York musicians, some well-known, others deserving to be. Longo’s charts run the mainstream gamut and include a slow Basie-like groover (“Mike’s Lament”), a lyrical Latin with woodwinds (“Chanson”) and a tune inspired by James Brown that features an African-like 12/8 meter (“The Godfather”), all part of a nicely balanced assortment of ballads, blues and swingers. Vocalist Hilary Gardner is employed to good advantage on a swinging “Love Walked In,” the ballad/bossa “The Night We Called It a Day” and tenorist Frank Perowsky’s tribute to Duke Ellington, “Song of My Dream.”

Longo passes the solos around generously. On his own turns, he leans toward thoughtful, spare lines, sometimes interspersed with a bit of humor (e.g., the quote from “Desafinado” and the variation on “Moanin'” in his “Alone Together” chorus). Other frequently spotlighted soloists, all of them excellent, include tenorist Perowsky, altoist Lee Greene, guitarist Adam Rafferty and trumpeter/flugelhornist Joe Magnarelli. The latter is especially impressive on his warm flugelhorn solo on “Lazy Afternoon.” And although tenorist Gerry Niewood solos only once, his husky, swinging chorus on “Covenant City” is a gem.

This highly polished, razor-sharp ensemble of seasoned pros boasts a rhythm section that is all anyone could ask for. Drummer Darryl Pellegrini and the bassist Santi DeBriano, with his big sound and propulsive beat, anchor the proceedings admirably.

Originally Published