(Bob Lark, flugelhorn; Phil Woods, alto sax; Jim McNeely, piano; Steve Gilmore, bass; Bill Goodwin, drums)
Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago has been THE major jazz nightclub outside of the East Coast going back five decades. Aside from the Village Vanguard in New York City, it is the most famous jazz club in the country. The Showcase has specialized in straight ahead jazz-incorporating the masters of swing, bop, hard bop, and occasional bigger band aggregations. They have all played for appreciative audiences at the various locations of the Jazz Showcase. Recently, the Showcase relocated again after a brief hiatus. I have not been to the new location, but from reports I have heard that the sight lines, sound system, lighting, etc. are all top notch, benefiting the status of this institution. Run by the octogenarian, Joe Segal, along with his son, Wayne, the Jazz Showcase has now changed from a five night major headliner format to a more economical weekend major artist format with local artists getting a chance to headline on week nights, which is a major opportunity to soak in the ambience of playing at the major jazz club outside of the Big Apple.
Bob Lark, a talented flugelhornist and head of the jazz studies program at Chicago’s DePaul University, has recorded with Phil Woods before for Jazzed Media. Also the DePaul jazz ensemble has recorded several CDs at the Showcase with guest leaders (i.e., Clark Terry, and Jim McNeely). Jazzed Media’s owner, Graham Carter, has just released a May 2006 compilation from two nights of the Lark/ Woods Quintet. It features Woods’ primary backing rhythm section of McNeely, Gilmore, and Goodwin. Gilmore and Goodwin go a long ways back as members of Woods’ quintet, which primarily feature a trumpeter on the front line with Woods. For many years, Brian Lynch held down these duties.
The song selection for this live recording is made up of three Lark compositions and the classic All Blues, from Miles Davis. In addition, they have included a Sammy Cahn chestnut, It’s You or No One, and two classic Cole Porter standards, Everytime We Say Goodbye and What is This Thing Called Love.
The sound mix is just right for a live recording and Lark and Woods, as usual, make a good team. Jim McNeely, whether comping or taking cogent piano solos is a pleasure to hear. I especially liked Lark’s original compositions – Ravenswood, Mad Dan’s, and Cathy’s Song. Lark’s tone is pure, warm, and powerful. He could easily have a full time career as a touring artist, but loves the chance to both lead the DePaul jazz program and experience the jazz vibe in Chicago, the only other city in the US, besides New York, that really has a full time jazz presence.
Phil Woods’ chops in 2006 were still first rate and he matches Lark for intensity and swing. Ravenswood sets the tone for this CD as it provides a 14-minute opportunity for the quintet to mesh. Mad Dan’s Latin beat and Cathy’s Song are made to order for Woods’ and the latter finds Phil blowing a gorgeous solo.
All Blues gets an exemplary “Miles-like” Lark flugel run. Gilmore’s bass lines are up front and prominent, and Goodwin’s drums are hard charging. It’s a highlight of the CD. The Cahn and Porter tracks are a nice close to the CD as Woods tears up on It’s You, and Lark again shines on the Porter classics. Those in attendance at the Showcase were in for a treat and now thanks to Jazzed Media, we can all enjoy Lark and Woods backed by a superb rhythm section. Well done!
TrackList: Ravenswood, Mad Dan’s, Cathy’s Song, All Blues, It’s You or No One, Everytime We Say Goodbye, What is This Thing Called Love
– Jeff Krow