Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 06/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm surprised to see this one still in the catalog. Al Cohn's tenor prowess throughout his career is widely documented in numerous musical contexts, though some of his best long-playing recordings (especially "Cohn on the Saxophone" and "The Blues Is Everybody's Business") are unlikely ever to be released on CD. Home-town hero Spike Robinson (he graduated from high school in Kenosha, Wisconsin) is another matter. Waiting until the mid-1980's and his mid-50's to devote full time to playing his horn (he worked as an engineer), he had little time to make his mark before suffering a rather precipitous decline in health during the last half of the 1990's. It's doubtful that more than 5 or 6 of his recordings are still available. This is certainly one of his best (an album he made of the music of Harry Warren is also worth chasing down). Whereas Cohn began to play more aggressively and extrovertishly with the passing years, Spike held to a lyrical and thoughtful Getz line. It serves him well. Listen carefully to the opening number, "Sippin' at Bell's," and feel free to judge between the seasoned veteran (Cohn had recorded with Coltrane and numerous jazz all-stars) and the late bloomer. Spike's sense of melodic line places him in the driver's seat, distinguishing him as a player with uncanny vision, capable of executing non-stop, elaborate, purposeful melodic ideas that come to a momentary pause only when there's a need to breathe. Spike's best work on record is on these rare occasions when he's in the challenging company of an Al Cohn, a Ray Brown, or a Victor Feldman. And since he lived in Europe during most of his music career, those moments were all too infrequent. All the more reason to pick up this recording, which is every bit as satisfying as some of the memorable Al Cohn-Zoot Sims meetings, though I wouldn't expect it to be available for much longer."