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Better Late by Steve Hall Quintet

On Better Late a quintet of top players from Portland, Oregon, have put together a funky, straight-ahead album, proving again that there is a lot of good jazz being played everywhere in the states.

Led by Steve Hall, whose organ buoys a solid front line -- Carl Hudson, tenor and alto sax, Patrick Nearing, trumpet, Peter Schwimmer, guitar -- as they navigate through a section of six Hall originals and five jazz standards. On drums, Kenny Morse is the motor that powers the group.

The play list is a hardy mixture of down-home blues, spiced with Latin-flavored tunes, sprinkled with a little Wes Montgomery and Lee Morgan, containing a generous amount of John Coltrane stirred in.

Hall’s "Grindin’," as the name suggests, spotlights his funky organ, backing the bluesy refrain provided by sax-trumpet-guitar. Next, Wes Montgomery’s "Full House" bounces along, dominated by Morse’s Afro-Cuban beat.

On Lee Morgan’s "Cornbread" and Hall’s "Livin’ the Blues," everyone’s solo is soulfully solid, again the drums provide an infectious beat. The rhythm changes with Hall’s softly swinging "Mambo Nuevo." Schwimmer’s guitar stands out here, as does Nearing’s plaintive trumpet.

The star of the CD, however, is the hard-bop take on the oldie, "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," made famous by Coltrane. Hudson on tenor improvises a masterful solo as do Nearing and Hall. Coltrane’s shadow appears again in his "Lazy Bird." Hudson’s tenor, as expected, takes the lead, but it is the ubiquitous Morse on drums who has the final solo say.

The keynote of this album: everyone plays flawlessly together and shares improvising time, stretching out with excellent solos.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Hall Quintet
  • CD Title: Better Late
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Moovealong 006
  • Rating: Three Stars
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