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Michael Benedict & Bopitude: Five and One

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Drummer Michael Benedict delighted hard-bop fans last year with his crack quintet’s self-titled debut. They’re back with baritone sax powerhouse Gary Smulyan augmenting the lineup, making this a scintillating sextet session. They come out smoking on Sonny Stitt’s “The Eternal Triangle,” with Smulyan’s blistering bari in a high-speed chase with Bruce Barth’s piano, Brian Patneaude’s tenor sax and Chris Pasin’s trumpet. And there’s more vintage Blue Note heat to come: traded eights in classic hard-bop fashion, and Benedict mixing it up with Barth at the tag.

Smulyan and bassist Mike Lawrence double the melody on a rendition of Thad Jones’ “Three and One,” then bari, tenor and trumpet join together on brisk unisons to kick off Miles Davis’ “Compulsion,” before each gets a healthy solo. Keeping the hard-bop fires burning, they deliver faithful renditions of Kenny Dorham’s “An Oscar for Oscar,” Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” and Hank Mobley’s “Infra-Rae.” For a change of pace, they turn in mellow versions of Bobby Watson’s “As Quiet as It’s Kept” and J.J. Johnson’s “Enigma.”

Originally Published