Al Viola is perhaps best known as Frank Sinatra's guitarist for four decades, playing on most of the Chairman's albums and joining him on stages from Las Vegas to the White House. He's a veteran of bands led by Harry James, Les Brown, Ray Anthony and Nelson Riddle, and like Most, he's long been one of Los Angeles' most sought after session players, whether to back an impressive array of singers or for film and TV work.
Between them, Most and Viola offer up more than a century of professional experience, and some credit is due Simon for the courage to join them, but he proves himself more than up to the task, providing solid time with solid walking lines and taking some impressive solos in his on right. Enormous credit is due him for matching these legendary veterans and giving us the opportunity to hear them recorded live in an intimate, jazz friendly club setting.
As the title implies, the trio devotes their attentions to standards, primarily ballads and mid-tempo numbers. They trade solos freely and seem focused on enjoyment, never more than when Most sings on "Route 66" and "As Time Goes By." While Most hasn't made his name as a singer, his voice has a rough-edged appeal, reminiscent of what Chet Baker might have sounded like if he'd lasted long enough, and he's got an impressive scat facility as well. He's also fine on clarinet and sax, but never better than he is when he features his flute, which appears on four of the nine cuts. Al Viola is past 80, but his energy and musicianship is undiminished. Whether comping for a Most solo or taking a strong single line turn himself, Viola shows why he's been an inspiration to aspiring guitarists for half a century and more.
This is a noteworthy album because of the stature of the players involved, but perhaps more importantly, this music is simply a joy to hear.