Formerly put out by Storyville, this audiophile CD reissue features the great Zoot Sims performing in a quartet with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and two notable expatriates: pianist Kenny Drew and drummer Ed Thigpen…
This particular CD is an exception to these rules: This is a straight reissue of a live album, recorded in 1990 in Zagreb, Croatia. Also, Drew is accompanied by George Mraz on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The fact that the rhythm section inspired Drew on stage is apparent from the burning-hot opening track "Autumn Leaves." This is a very exciting live album!
To commemmorate the 20th anniversary of Drew's passing, a very special series was launched in Japan in 2013, with a release of previously unpublished materials recorded for the two labels between 1972 and 1992. Most of them are alternate takes and takes that did not make onto the original albums released in this period. Danish super-bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen held the bass chair throughout, and the drummer is either Ed Thigpen, a fellow American expat who had settled in Copenhagen, or Alvin Queen.
This particular CD is a straight reissue of an out-of-print live album called Piano Night, recorded in Switzerland in 1992, less than 15 months before Drew's passing at age 64. The drum chair was occupied by Alvin Queen. The performance in this exciting live album is very strong, and the sound quality, especially of the piano, is also excellent.
By the late 1970s, Kenny Drew had migrated to Europe, where he recorded extensively. This live trio date with the superb bassist Niels Pedersen and guitarist Phillip Catherine is worth looking for. "Django" opens with a lyrical Catherine acoustic solo before Drew and Pedersen take a bluesy detour. "Here's That Rainy Day" is given a lengthy workout, while the leader's "Sunset" opens with a meandering theme before evolving into a gentle ballad. The romping interplay within "Blues In the Closet" and "On Green Dolphin Street" close the performance with a flourish. Ken Dryden, All Music Guide
Kenny Barron was honored as an NEA Jazz Master on January 12, 2010, and it was a recognition that was due. Since entering the jazz scene in the early '60s, he has made his mark as a sideman (especially with Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz), solo pianist, leader, and composer. These 2009 sessions pair him with frequent collaborator Ben Riley and fellow veteran George Mraz on bass.
While he perhaps never achieved star status outside the jazz world, Kenny Drew was and remains one of the preeminent straight-ahead bebop pianists. While he has led a very active career, 1960's Undercurrent was Drew's last album as a leader until the 1970's. In a way, Undercurrent is the intersection of two very popular jazz groups of the day - Cannonball Adderley's (Sam Jones and Louis Hayes) and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard), with Drew's keys and tunes the unifying voice. Undercurrent is a fine, timeless mix of bop funk, fire, and finesse.