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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Jimmy Smith
Dot Com Blues
Blue Thumb Records 3145439782

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Dot Com Blues is a fine new set of recordings from the Hammond organ's best friend, Jimmy Smith. If you associate the organ with roller rinks and Sunday services, you owe it to yourself to leave the pew, enter the lounge, and catch up with Smith. Rather than plod through a melody, Smith makes it roll and the mood is infectious.

This album features lots of big name stars in the blues field that we assume are here to give this disc a push. There's nothing wrong with these tracks but they tend to be more Blues-oriented. On his own, Smith brings an R&B sensibility to jazz and that's when the magic really begins. The nearly nine minute version of Mood Indigo is sheer heaven with just Smith on the Hammond, supported by guitar, acoustic bass and drums. Dot Com Blues, C.C. Rider and Tuition Blues feature the same musicians and all four tracks are the meat and potatoes of the album.

The guest artists succeed to various degrees. Dr. John sings and plays the piano on Only in It For The Money. We admit we respect Dr. John and have never doubted his talent but his singing voice leaves us cold. On this track he is subdued and the vocal is incidental to the track. More successful is the instrumental Mr. Johnson with it's funky groove and fat-sounding horns. Etta James is typically Etta James with I Just Wanna Make Love to You but it is more an Etta James track than a Jimmy Smith number. This is our first exposure to Keb Mo' who is noted for an edgy Robert Johnson Blues-influenced style,but in his one appearance on the disc, Over and Over, he sounds like an average Rock vocalist. It's not fair to judge him from this one recording but his performance doesn't inspire us to pursue more of his work. B.B. King does Three O'Clock Blues.

The overall sound is classic without pandering, fun without being silly, and groovy enough to get your fingers popping.

Manny Oquendo y Libre
Los New Yorkiños! Milestone MCD 9307-2 Salsa / Jazz

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It's all been done hundreds of times before, but in the able hands of percussionist Manny Oquendo, straight-ahead Salsa (with a slight Jazz sensibility) always sounds fresh. This new album, Los New Yorkiños, features a four-trombone horn section, reminiscent of Willie Colon. It gives the disc a thick elegant sound that grounds the massive wall of percussion coming from Oquendo and conga player George Delgado.

The opener, Salsa Jam, starts with an odd "rap" that suggests a preamble to a fiery jam, but instead leads into a rather staid number. Oquendo's Latin-izing Lester Leaps In is a hoot and the Bolero Quiereme y Veras (sung very nicely by Xiomara Lougart) is gorgeous. But the highlight is the flag-waver, No Cuentas. Even at almost seven minutes, it's not enough.

If you've been enchanted by the recent spate of Buena Vista Social Club recordings, but haven't gone much further into Latin music, we think Los New Yorkiños would be a fine place to start. Even though the roots are the same, it's fascinating to see the differences between traditional Cuban and Puerto Rican music and good old "Yanqui" Salsa. And it's always great to have an old pro like Manny Oquendo inspire our hips to start shaking.

Curtis Fuller with Hampton Hawes
With French Horns
New Jazz (Original Jazz Classics) OJCD 1942-2 (NJ-8305)

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Curtis Fuller was noted for his fluid performances on the normally clumsy trombone. Hampton Hawes was known for his hard swinging, gospel-flavored style on the piano. Add these two Jazz giants to a bass, the drums, one sax and two French horns and one would expect a West Coast jazz opus with intricate arrangements and slightly arty pretensions. Instead, this 1957 date seems more intent on proving how hard this odd group of instruments can swing.

In fact, if you listen casually, you'll hear just a vague brassy sound. These fellows are so nimble, you'll forget how different this would have sounded in less capable hands. We actually would have enjoyed some West Coast fussiness thrown into the mix, or Hampton Hawes doing some of his Gospel thing, but that clearly wasn't the intention.

Nat "King" Cole
The King Swings
Capitol 72435-30302-2-3

Nat "King" Cole
Songs From Stage & Screen
Capitol 72435-30303-2-2

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These are new, attractive compilations of mostly previously released material by Nat "King" Cole. The titles and themes are arbitrary. Most of The Kings Swings doesn't swing (Azure-Te, You're My Thrill, Until the Real Thing Comes Along, etc.) and Songs from Stage & Screen is silly because most standards are from the stage or screen. Still, the tracks are all good post-Trio Nat "King" Cole, programmed nicely, and there are a few previously unreleased songs.

So it's all nice and pleasant but why not just release the complete albums as they were recorded? And why not give recording dates and personnel information?



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