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Eli Yamin/Evan Christopher: Louie’s Dream: For Our Jazz Heroes

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The heroes pianist Eli Yamin and clarinetist Evan Christopher honor on this album include not only Louis Armstrong but also Barney Bigard, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Mary Lou Williams, Mahalia Jackson, Amiri Baraka, John Coltrane and Mercedes Ellington. There are also a couple of evocative but non-dedicated originals by Yamin, one bluesy, the other gospelish. Christopher is steeped in the New Orleans clarinet tradition but he somehow avoids revivalist mimicry while baring his roots. Christopher’s “You Gotta Treat It Gentle” (for Bechet) is one of the loveliest performances: bluesy and slow with fine chalumeau clarinet playing. Yamin can summon any number of influences to meet the occasion: Williams (obviously) on her “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?,” Monk on “Baraka 75,” Art Hodes on “It’s the Way That You Talk” and Ellington (obviously, again) on “The Mooche” and “Dancers in Love.”

Judging jazz musicians by their ability to solo irrespective of the composition at hand has become de rigueur. But this duo’s stumble-free playing and expressive imagination reveal superb self-editing and attention to melody and form. Throughout, they swing and maintain an ensemble orientation-especially notable on “The Mooche,” with its dynamic variations, light and dark moods, and changing piano rhythms.

Originally Published