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Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Live From New York!

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This album captures an electrifying evening at the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium in the NYC Baha’i Center. There is a feeling of elation in the performances. Pianist Mike Longo wrote all the big-band arrangements, and they range from his atmospheric originals “Afro Desia” and “Inner City Hues” to the jazz standards “Whisper Not” and “Wee.” Deep-voiced vocalist Ira Hawkins sings “I’m Old Fashioned” (backed by the trio of Longo, bassist Tom Hubbard and drummer Mike Campenni), “Over the Rainbow” and “Muddy Water” (backed by the full band). Longo’s writing is strongly rhythmic; you wouldn’t expect otherwise from someone who was once a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet. He elicits stirring dynamics and fills by Campenni.

Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not” leads off, with soloists Brian Davis (trumpet), Lee Greene (alto saxophone), Longo and Frank Perowsky (tenor saxophone) setting high standards for the successive performances. On Longo’s “Yoko Mama,” Earl McIntyre’s blustery plunger-muted bass trombone is a highlight, and on “Muddy Water,” Perowsky’s throaty-toned tenor turns up the heat over Campenni’s infectious shuffle beat. The initially suspenseful “Inner City Hues” (reminiscent of arranger Gerald Wilson’s writing) features more speechlike trombone work, this time from Nick Grinder and Sam Burtis. There’s spirited ensemble work throughout the album, such as the Supersax-like solos on “Wee” and the exotic, hypnotic repetition of “Afro Desia.”

Originally Published