Randy Napoleon, The Door Is Open, OA2 ****

Just as sleek and super swinging as I remember guitarist Randy Napoleon playing live in London with the late Freddy Cole back in 2010, here in the studio playing the music of Gregg Hill in the company of the core band of pianist Rick Roe, bassist …

Published: 23 Jan 2024. Updated: 34 days.

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Just as sleek and super swinging as I remember guitarist Randy Napoleon playing live in London with the late Freddy Cole back in 2010, here in the studio playing the music of Gregg Hill in the company of the core band of pianist Rick Roe, bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Quincy Davis and singer Aubrey Johnson who adds a ghostly top note coat to opener the slow 'April Song' which says a lot about this record: it takes its time and makes it point. The vocals blend well with the ensemble play. On five of the tunes Napoleon adds three horns, trombonist Andrew Kim, saxist Walter Blanding and trumpeter Anthony Stanco, a decision that gives the album a lot more depth than it might have otherwise have had if pared back to the bone. 'Motel Blues,' with its Wes Montgomery-like character, I liked most along with the duetting with Johnson on 'Skyline'. Both these tunes have lyrics by Napoleon. An album perfect for anyone intro American mainstream and straightahead sounds and above all connoisseur level jazz in-the-tradition guitar playing and tunes that punch above their weight. SG

Out on 23 February

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Dave Pietro, The Talisman, SteepleChase ****

Things kick off here in classic hard bop guise finding US altoist Dave Pietro fuse with trumpeter Scott Wendholt - the rhythm section steered so consummately by Billy Drummond. Pietro's first album for Danish label Steeplechase, tunes include …

Published: 22 Jan 2024. Updated: 36 days.

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Things kick off here in classic hard bop guise finding US altoist Dave Pietro fuse with trumpeter Scott Wendholt - the rhythm section steered so consummately by Billy Drummond. Pietro's first album for Danish label Steeplechase, tunes include originals, a version of Michel Legrand's timeless 'The Windmills of Your Mind' and - I didn't see this coming at all - a beautiful version of Mahler’s 'Adagietto' from his 5th symphony. Pianist Gary Versace is very listenable throughout - I'd pick out his soloing on 'Auriga' and on the introduction to the Mahler, while bassist Jay Anderson adds gravitas to the stand-out title track so well. Pietro is more a modernist than you'd think at first glance, essentially steeped in the language of bop and beyond, and knows exactly what he wants to say with it. He has very persuasive tone on a subdued ballad like 'Alexandra' and again melds so well with Wendholt on 'Yvette'. Recommended. SG