On The Summit, Swiss-born and based saxophonist George Robert teams with veteran saxist Phil Woods for nine stimulating front-line alto (or clarinet) interchanges for the German label. Berklee-trained Robert may not enjoy the widest name recognition in the U.S., but he’s amassed 21 albums as leader and sideman for various import labels since 1985. During the mid-1980s, Robert spent time in New York City, where he completed his master’s at Manhattan School of Music, co-led a quintet with Tom Harrell and performed with an array of jazz bands. In the 1990s his quintet and quartet toured globally and he continued to freelance, record and teach. Woods hired Robert in 1998 to play lead alto in his overseas touring big band, thus beginning a relationship that led to his album. It’s obvious Woods is an inspiration for Robert and their seamless playing is almost indistinguishable on the satisfying originals, mostly by Robert. Pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ray Drummond and (Woods’ longtime) drummer Bill Goodwin lend maximum rhythm-section sizzle. One of the catchiest numbers features the leaders’ swinging clarinet collusion on the freshened chestnut “Perdido.” Woods contributes the swirling, samba-ized “Smoke Dreams” and the beat chomping “Apples & Cheese.” As diverse an interpreter as Woods, Roberts offers five originals which attractively cover the gamut from swingers to boppers and ballads. For all these reasons, The Summit is a peak listen warranting repeated play.
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