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Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival–2013

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Supergroups don’t always live up to the billing, but this one does. A sequel to the SuperBand’s 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival recording, this album features returnees Sean Jones (trumpet and flugelhorn), Evan Perri (guitar), Aaron Diehl (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass) and Carl Allen (drums), plus newcomers Kirk Whalum (tenor saxophone and flute) and Warren Wolf (vibes and marimba). In addition, guest vibraphonist Gary Burton appears on two tracks. Excitement is in the air throughout, from the rhythm section’s uplifting grooves to crowd-pleasing solos by all hands. And in this case, crowd pleasing doesn’t mean selling out.

Three performances suggest the late Horace Silver: Wolf’s “Soul Sister,” Allen’s “Relativity” and the gospel song “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.” Leader Whitaker notes that several of the musicians, including himself, were brought up in the gospel tradition, and you can certainly hear this in the soulful testifying of Jones, Whalum, Wolf and the rhythm section on these downhome tunes. Diehl’s “Blue Nude,” a Modern Jazz Quartet-like performance (with Wolf, Whitaker, Allen and the composer), and Chick Corea’s “Señor Mouse,” a duet featuring Burton and Wolf, shift the mood in a more arty direction. The duet is not a duel but rather a case of contrasting styles working in a complementary manner. Burton also appears on Corea’s “Chick’s Tune.”

High-note master Jones impresses throughout this set. Perri and Diehl charm from the get-go (“Soul Sister”) and do not let up. Whalum scores on tenor on “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.” Wolf is consistently dazzling. Whitaker and Allen are the feel-good, in-the-pocket, keep-you-moving team to beat.

Originally Published