Wednesday, September 14, 2011

David Leonhardt's Piano and Band Play Cole Porter

Looking at the selection of 12 songs played by pianist David Leonhardt and his group on Plays Cole Porter (Big Bang BBR9584), you are immediately reminded of how central Porter's best songs have become in the standard jazz repertoire. These songs have served as excellent vehicles for many of the bop and after masters. So what can Dave Leonhardt and his entourage do that hasn't been done before? The answer is that David sums up the sorts of treatments pianists and ensembles have put across over the years, from Red Garland through Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner.

That is not to say that they are pulling arrangements off of old records. They are doing their own, with the masterstyles repurposed for their viewpoint here in the new century. David L's pianism is first-rate, calling on the traditions of those past masters and making them his own. Vocalist Nancy Reed, who is on hand for around half of the numbers, has a good sense of phrase and a burnished lower range that is quite attractive. Larry McKenna plays a decent tenor free from the sounds and licks so popular right now. The rhythm section of Matthew Parrish (bass) and Paul Wells (drums) gets the feel right for each tune.

In the end, arrangements and Leonhardt's well-healed sense of the jazz piano tradition of the past 50 years carry the day. It may not jump out at you as a "wow this is new" kind of set, but it delivers very solid jazz in the mainstream after-Evans & Tyner world of today.

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