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Swinging The Blues by Earl May Quartet

The publicity sheet packaged with my review copy of this CD refers to bassist Earl May as a "musician’s musician." That’s no exaggeration! Earl May made his first recording in 1949 with trumpeter Cat Anderson. Pianist Billy Taylor employed the bassist throughout the 1951 to 1960 period on dozens of record dates and hundreds of live performances.

Often compared to Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers and Percy Heath, he worked with small and large groups for almost six decades. In short, May worked with such diverse acts as Dave Van Ronk to Archie Shepp but flourished in the middle ground with leaders like Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Rouse, Shirley Scott, Buddy Rich, Stanley Turrentine and Gene Ammons.

Swinging The Blues is, perhaps, Earl May’s first album as a leader. Surrounding himself with like-minded musicians in the form of Larry Ham, David Glasser and Eddie Locke, the bassist dishes out some familiar jazz pieces like Basie’s title tune, Charlie Parker’s "Confirmation," Sam Coslow’s "My Old Flame" and Lester Young’s "Lester Leaps In." David Glasser’s very smooth alto introduces the familiar melody "Blame it On My Youth."

The legendary pianist, Barry Harris, joins the quartet for an up-tempo and boppish rendition of "Tea For Two" and follows up with a sultry reading of "My Old Flame." Harris’s solo passages are enhanced by May and drummer Eddie Locke.

Earl May wisely added compositions by members of the quartet. The first to be heard is reedman David Glasser’s pretty "Blue Iridescence." Glasser also offers his up-tempo "It’s So Divine" with some nice Larry Ham piano passages.

Larry Ham comes to the forefront with his own "Sioux Suite," a witty takeoff on the familiar "Sweet Sue." Ham joins forces with David Glasser for the collaborative effort titled "Under African Skies." Bassist, leader, Earl May, shines on the tune.

Drummer, Eddie Locke, was not to be left out. He penned the very pretty "Wishes Are Starting To Don’t Come True." It’s a haunting melody that will linger and beg for a replay.

Swinging The Blues will please those folks who enjoy jazz in a straight-ahead, no-nonsense style.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Earl May Quartet
  • CD Title: Swinging The Blues
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Arbors Jazz
  • Tracks: Swinging The Blues, Blame It On My Youth, My Foolish Heart, Tea For Two, Blue Iridescence, Make Someone Happy, Under African Skies, Sioux Suite, My Old Flame, Confirmation, Wishes Are Starting To Don’t Come True, It’s So Divine, Lester Leaps In.
  • Musicians: Earl May (bass, leader), David Glasser (alto sax), Larry Ham (piano), Eddie Locke (drums), Special guest: Barry Harris (piano on Tea For Two, My Old Flame).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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