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Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call

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Thoroughly worthy of its Johnny Hodges/Duke Ellington pedigree, in buoyantly swinging ways, “The Jeep Is Jumpin'” kicks off guitarist Andy Brown’s third recording for Delmark. There are several uptempo delights to come, enlivened by Brown’s fluid yet unfussy virtuosity. Swift propulsion and crisp breaks, courtesy of pianist Jeremy Kahn, bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Phil Gratteau, complete the picture.

In fact, throughout this session the supporting players provide a lot more than routine accompaniments, as a brisk reprise of Johnny Mandel’s charmer “El Cajon” illustrates. A rhythmically nimble performance laced with quick exchanges, it ultimately proves a splendid showcase for Kahn. If the quartet sounds like a working band, aware of its strengths and clearly practiced at the art of showcasing them, well, a lot of jazz fans in Chicago would be happy to confirm your suspicions.

Early on, though, Brown quietly reveals his gift for reviving ballads with lyrical warmth and blues-tinted lyricism while reprising “Prisoner of Love,” with no small assist from Policastro on arco bass. Familiar to admirers of his previous recordings, Brown’s soulfully tender touch is also evident during other romantic interludes, notably Antonio Carlos Jobim’s insinuating “Ela é Carioca.”

Still, it’s not surprising that Brown chose Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt’s “Appel Call (Direct Call)” as the album’s title track, since he takes such obvious delight in its zigzagging lines, leaping intervals, Miles Davis-inspired modulation and abundant verve, to say nothing of Gratteau’s brush-stroke artistry. Appel encore!

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