The John Webber Quartet – Down For The Count – Cellar Live CL040114, 64:37 ****:
(John Webber – guitar; Harold Mabern – piano; Nat Reeves – acoustic bass; Joe Farnsworth – drums; George Coleman – tenor sax – tracks 6 & 9)
There may be some confusion in the market place with the album Down For The Count as the Japanese hard rock group Y&T have this same title for their release although theirs does have stylized drawing of Count Dracula on the cover compared to a guitar case and cut off legs on this offering. One might have thought that The John Webber Quartet would have done some research on the title before issuing the album, but never mind. While not hard bop compared to hard rock, it does have a sensibility that makes it a solid outing.
This musical confusion continues with the first track which the album indicates is “Look Love Away” and in checking the Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein song book it is correctly entitled “Love, Look Away” from the musical Flower Drum Song. Despite this error, the tune is a swinger with guitarist Webber opening with a fleet run-through of the melody with his single note playing using all the fretboard. Mabern with his bop infused piano, carries the tune through its paces with agility with Webber taking the song out in singular style. Webber is the composer of the title tune “Down For The Count” which has a Latin vibe and features a whole passel of Mabern’s block chord piano with Webber’s guitar riding over the top.
B.B. King made “The Thrill Is Gone” one of his signature pieces and Webber does his best in tackling the number in intrepid fashion. However he is no B.B. King, and he may have been better served by leaving well-enough alone. “This Love Of Mine” was recorded by Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers in 1941 when they were with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and later Sinatra re-recorded it in 1955 with Nelson Riddle for the album In The Wee Small Hours. The band gives this ballad a very insightful reading sticking close to the melody line, but still offering both Webber and Mabern plenty of opportunity to show their solo prowess.
Tenor saxophonist George Coleman is a distinguished player who has participated in several seminal recordings including the Miles Davis releases of My Funny Valentine and Seven Steps To Heaven as well as the stellar Herbie Hancock album Maiden Voyage. Just as important, Coleman and Mabern worked together on several Prestige releases in the late ‘60s issued under Mabern’s name, so familiarity here was not an issue. The two tracks in which Coleman takes part are his own blues line “Big G Blues” and the Styne/Comden/Green standard “Make Someone Happy”. In both cases his oblique style and interesting phrasing give the tunes a jump that make the rest of the band up their game.
Recorded live before a studio audience at The Unity Center in New York City on March 18,2014 the result is an evocative album from an accomplished band.
Track List: Look Love Away; Down For The Count; Lulu’s Lope; The Thrill Is Gone; This Love Of Mine; Big G Blues; Twilight In Seville; Minor March; Make Someone Happy
– Pierre Giroux
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