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Harold Mabern: Right On Time

Smoke, one of New York City’s most intimate hardcore jazz clubs, is the latest venue to branch out into the album industry. The organization hasn’t wasted time either, dropping Smoke Sessions’ first six discs before 2014 reaches its mid-point. All were recorded at the club, although one was made without a live audience present. The sound quality on all of these discs captures the intimacy of the 50-seat room, and feels rich without adding any production trappings. Each disc comes in a foldout digipak with excellent photography by Jimmy Katz. Inside, the liner notes bypass clichés and fawning, opting instead for sharp interviews with the bandleaders.

Pianist Harold Mabern has always been a gifted soloist who pushes his ideas forward with heavy chords. Right on Time reveals his knack for discovering material way off the jazz path. He turns the disco hit “Dance With Me” into a McCoy Tyner-esque show of force. Divested of Laverne and Shirley’s comedic mugging, that duo’s TV theme, “Making Our Dreams Come True,” reveals a strong melody ripe for Mabern’s solo. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” becomes a slow blues that, understandably, draws a joyous shout from the audience. With longtime triomates John Webber (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums) in tow, Mabern makes it all sound new.

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