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Live at the Balzac by Harry Smallenburg Quartet

This 7-song program was recorded live at an outdoor café in Azusa, California, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. It features the leader’s vibes, augmented by sympathetic guitar, bass and drums. The results are generally enjoyable, even with - or perhaps because of - the occasional bleeding-through of the audience. The program is heavy on jazz standards, from Monk’s, "Well You Needn’t" to "All Blue" to Kenny Dorham’s "Blue Bossa." Smallenburg’s vibes are captivating. His inspiration is more Milt Jackson than Terry Gibbs, but he is hardly stylistically limited.

"Moon River" is well-played, though the effect is more lounge than on the rest of the program. "Where or When" is given a straight reading. "On The Street Where You Live" is equally close to the vest. On Miles’ "All Blues," the group is replaced by an alternate one that’s up to the challenge of the composition. Smallenburg is obviously challenged as well, as his performance is exquisite on this piece. Guitarist Allen Kelinski and drummer Jim Miller are especially impressive here. The regular quartet of guitarist Tom Bethke, bassist Baba Elefante and drummer Steve Sykes back the leader ably throughout the set. Other than a little stiffness on "Just Friends," this is an enjoyable set by a quartet that sounds like they’d be a treat to experience in the flesh.

Improvisation Promotions has this at 12654 S.W. Doug Drive, Lake Suzy, Arcadia, FL (941) 255-9881. Contact Smallenburg at (818) 954-0563

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Harry Smallenburg Quartet
  • CD Title: Live at the Balzac
  • Genre: Cool Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Julian
  • Rating: Three Stars
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