Guitarist Sheryl Bailey has a well-earned reputation for delivering distinctive, soulful playing and For All Those Living
more than lives up to this stature. The tunes range from uptempo bop to mellow waltz, and Bailey imbues each track with her compelling instrumental imagination. Together with a superlative trio of musicians, Bailey delivers an outstanding set of infectiously arranged tunes that pop out of the speakers with ear-catching soul and dexterous musical vision.
Each of the eight tunes are Bailey originals whose themes are loosely focused around people or ideas that have affected the guitarist’s life. There are odes to the late Jimmy Wyble and Jack Wilkins, as well as a homage to the soulful Hank Mobley. The sum of these tributes is the added emotional depth Bailey seems to bring to each cut. On the title cut, there’s a melancholic feel to the laid back swing which both Bailey and pianist Jim Ridl perfectly exploit during their solos -- veering back and forth between angular, darting lines and expressive, lingering richness.
On the opening cut, "An Unexpected Turn", Bailey shows off her chops as her solos shift from straight-forward melodic to a more tense harmonic sense. But Bailey never forgets jazz’s rhythmic joy either. "Masa’s Bag" is a fun extended blues as swinging as anything Grant Green could imagine. As bassist Gary Wang and drummer Shingo Okudaira expertly push the beat forward, both Bailey and Ridl let loose with explosive, agile solos that play with the downbeat like the proverbial cat to the mouse. Bailey is the rare guitarist whose playing is both unhurried and precise even as she is unleashing a torrid of notes, while Ridl’s playing is beautifully fluid and pulsating with energy.
An added attraction to this album is the outstanding sound production. Track after track is alive with the crisp, beautifully recorded instruments. Bailey’s guitar is warm and rich throughout, Ridl’s piano has just the right amount of presence, Wang’s bass has a unmuddied nearness, while Okudaira’s drums sound like they are five feet away in a sound-booth. The quality of the sound only adds to the excitement of the set as every nuance can be heard and felt.
Sheryl Bailey has only added to her solid reputation with this inspired outing. Taken individually, each track conveys an intriguing emotional feeling and flawless musical interpretation. Taken as a whole, the project’s swinging musical largeness keeps one wanting to hear more.