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Frank Locrasto : When You’re There

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The 23-year-old LoCrasto’s debut CD is part of the MAXJAZZ piano series, which includes titles by such luminaries as Mulgrew Miller and Jessica Williams. Currently a member of the Jeremy Pelt Quartet, LoCrasto not only produced this session, but wrote all the compositions and arrangements, four of which feature a string and woodwind section. Although this music’s impeccably played throughout, there is unfortunately a sameness to the tempos (mostly slow to mid) as well as the mood, and too many pieces begin with a similar piano or bass ostinato figure.

The basic group consists of saxist Chris Cheek, guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Ben Street and drummer Tommy Crane. The opening “Until Dusk” is a contemplative bossa-nova that features an excellent solo by Street. On “Jaded Brotherhood,” LoCrasto builds a solo that includes commanding runs while Moreno offers a probing solo full of smooth, logically executed single-note lines. He’s outstanding on “Troubling Differences” and a guitarist to watch for in the future. “Jordan” is another mellow tune, with a catchy melodic line propelled by a backbeat, and displays Cheek’s yearning tone on the theme and his hypnotically soulful tenor improvisation.

A longtime member of Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Cheek has developed over the years into a top-notch saxophonist deserving wider recognition. He’s superb on the entire CD; his solos never flag in their construction and immediacy. “Overture/The Rathskeller/Interlude” shows off LoCrasto’s arranging ability for the strings and woodwinds, and his classical training clearly adds to the depth of his musicianship. Street’s long solo on “The Metaphysics of Self-Deception”-creative, full-toned and nimbly-played-is another standout, and LoCrasto’s solos both here and on “Troubling Differences” exhibit his ample technique and unfettered expressiveness.