Bob Lark is the chairman of the DePaul University Jazz Studies program in Chicago. Relatively unknown outside of the Midwest, this Jazzed Media 2005 release should change that status. Lark wrote six out of the ten tracks on this CD and his taste, as well as his horn playing is impeccable.
It’s You or No One opens the CD with some inspired trumpet soloing by Lark, being matched in intensity and swing by the master, Phil Woods. Lark’s tune Abruzzi is a warm feature for Lark on flugelhorn and again Woods almost effortlessly matches Lark’s mood. Pianist McNeely has a nice solo here as well. Jim formerly played extensively with Woods and makes his return here a pleasure. McNeely regularly plays with the Village Vanguard Monday Night Big Band, whose sets are devoted to Thad Jones and Mel Lewis charts. McNeely often handles that band’s arrangements.
The other members of Woods’ touring band, Steve Gilmore on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums are featured on this CD as well. Their 30-year tenure with Woods is so evident as their accompaniment is spot on, neither overbearing nor showy. Gilmore’s bass solo on Ravenswood is notable and Bill Goodwin is so steady that his contributions could falsely be taken for granted.
Graham Carter of Jazzed Media compares Lark’s lyrical playing to another Jazzed Media artist, Carl Saunders, and the comparison is an apt one on all of Lark‚s compositions on this CD. The title track, In Her Eyes, is a gorgeous ballad and Phil and Bob warmly express what must be a paean to a beautiful woman. Lark’s flugelhorn once again is strongly featured playing in a midrange ballad mode and Woods‚ tone here is especially sweet.
The Caribbean tinged Roatan gives drummer Goodwin a chance to shine with his cymbal work followed by Woods on a tear. McNeely gets in a brief back to the islands solo, as does Gilmore supported by Goodwin’s percussive stick work. Lark includes a rarely played Charlie Parker composition, Charlie’s Wig, which not surprisingly is a Woods feature and perhaps the fastest tempo number for Woods on the CD. Lark shows his use of the mute to match his open playing and McNeely’s solos swing, as does a crystal clear solo by Gilmore.
Q’s Delight and Bouquet Chorale are the two Woods contributions and help show that Woods is the premier elder statesman of the alto, having over a half century of alto brilliance. With so many of our masters passing on or having lost a step or two, Phil’s playing is still top notch. An added bonus of buying this CD is the recording quality, which is as warm and clear as an SACD. Lark’s lyrical tone seals the deal.
— Jeff Krow