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John Colianni Quintet: On Target

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Louis Armstrong said that the faster the tempo, the more he could relax, a maxim that certainly applies to this love letter to the swing era. The longtime pianist in the Les Paul Trio, John Colianni boasts a sense of repose that only comes with serious technical virtuosity. With 14 muscular tracks, all standards or originals that sound like standards, interpreted by Colianni’s two-guitar quintet, the group’s sophomore album clocks in at a slender 42 minutes. All but one cut are under four minutes (it comes in at 4:06), and half are under three.

Colianni is used to keeping it short and sweet-he cut his teeth with Lionel Hampton, Mel Tormé and Paul-but he makes up for it by playing in double time. Larry Coryell gave him the moniker “Johnny Chops,” and with good reason: Trying to keep up with Colianni would be futile for almost any player; better to just go along for the ride.

Woody Herman had hits on opener “Apple Honey”; “Whacha Know, Joe?,” with its gang vocals; and barnburner “Northwest Passage,” which has Colianni trading with guitarist Justin Lees over Joe Friedman’s rhythm guitar. Count Basie feels as fresh as ever on “Gone With ‘What’ Wind?” and rollicking closer “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.” But the standout here is Colianni’s solo work, especially on “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” which sounds like a crisp remastering of Art Tatum.

Originally Published