Thursday, February 28, 2013

Joe La Barbera Quintet: Silver Streams

Jazz Compass
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Silver Streams

During the years I’ve reviewed jazz releases, I’ve noticed that certain individuals often contribute to the albums I enjoy the most. Such players generally appear individually, as one of the sidemen in a group fronted by different leaders, but sometimes they'll perform together. Such is the case in this album: The “leader” is drummer Joe La Barbara, supported by bassist Tom Warrington, pianist Bill Cunliffe, trumpeter Clay Jenkins and reed master Bob Sheppard.

These artists have much in common: All obtained college degrees from schools famous for the jazz artists they have graduated; all are teachers who play jazz as a sideline; all compose and arrange; and all have extensive experience with famous "name" combos and orchestras (many were with these groups at the same time).

Jenkins has appeared with Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Harry James and Count Basie; Sheppard with Rich, Bob Florence and Chick Corea; Cunliffe with numerous artists, and with several of his own orchestras; Warrington with Rich, Florence, Peggy Lee and Freddie Hubbard; and La Barbara with Rich, Bill Evans and many, many others.

On top of which, these five musicians are all close friends, and they play together brilliantly. 

Two of the eight tracks were contributed by Cunliffe ("Afluencia" and "Silver Streams") and one  by La Barbara ("Monkey Tree"). The late Scott LaFaro, who played bass with Bill Evans for years, contributed "Jade Visions." The rest are standards by other jazz composers, and the common denominator is swing: They all groove wonderfully.

This is what results when a handful of great artists — who enjoy each other — get together: truly great jazz!

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