This excellent disc offered my first experience with the MaxJazz label, and if representative of the rest of their work, should make this label a force to be reckoned with in jazz music. The live session, recorded at San Francisco jazz mainstay Yoshi’s, is a model for the entire industry; the instruments all occupy a very real space in the soundstage, and a truer representation of the recorded acoustic just doesn’t seem possible. Even the requisite crowd noise serves as no real distraction from the sublime music-making that took place during this engagement. Mulgrew Miller is an elegant pianist, and his working rhythm section of Derrick Hodge on bass and Karriem Riggins on drums provide truly sympathetic support to the evening’s proceedings.
While the bulk of the album is comprised of very polished renditions of standards, there are a couple of noteworthy exceptions, including Donald Brown’s ‘Waltz For Monk,’ a clever waltz filled with Monkish pianisms and really nice solos from both Mulgrew Miller and bassist Derrick Hodge. A cookin’ Mulgrew Miller original, ‘Pressing The Issue,’ closes the disc and provides ample solo opportunities for all members of the trio to shine. Other highlights include Jobim’s ‘O Grande Amor’ and Duke Ellington’s ‘Don’t You Know I Care,’ with both ballads given incredibly smooth presentations.
This album has offered me an incredible amount of listening pleasure over the last couple of weeks, and its 74-minute runtime always passes much too quickly. A volume 2 disc from these same sessions is on the way, and should prove essential listening as well. Well done, MaxJazz – I look forward to exploring the rest of the catalog! Highly recommended!
TrackList: If I Were A Bell; Waltz For Monk; O Grande Amor; The Organ Grinder; Peace; Don’t You Know I Care; What A Difference A Day Makes; Pressing The Issue.
– Tom Gibbs