By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Puzzle
Only longtime jazz fans are likely to know who Mitchel Forman is; I do, because he was the pianist who performed with Gerry Mulligan — in both his big band and the quartet — and, later, with Stan Getz. Those were all great, great units.
Forman also was part of the cadre recorded on the Live At Newport album from the 1980 Newport Jazz Festival. He has toured with Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Mel Torme, Carla Bley, Diane Schuur and Astrud Gilberto. (It’s worth noting that vocalists love him.)
Forman assembled the first of his own groups in 1985, and he continues to produce his own albums. This release — which features Kevin Axt on bass, and Steve Hass on drums — is his newest effort.
The operative terms that apply to Forman are swinging, straight-ahead jazz; blazing keyboard speed; precision and tastefulness. Both members of his rhythm section fit in beautifully. Axt, who accompanied Tierney Sutton for years, is one of the best bassists working; Hass is a vocalist’s dream, supporting and never intruding.
The menu includes a dozen tunes: Some are new, but the oldies really stand out. The trio’s interpretation of “What Is This Thing Called Love” is sensational; complimentary melodic lines and meter changes put a wonderful shine on this great standard. “Bounce,” using the chord changes of “I Got Rhythm,” is done at a race-horse tempo that’ll blow your hair back.
Frankly, every track demonstrates this trio’s talent and cohesiveness.
This definitely is not background jazz, and you won’t be able to take your ears off it. Please ... more, more, more!