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One Blessed Day by Al Maniscalco Quartet

A reviewer quickly learns that sound musicianship and creativity are not the exclusive province of nationally-known players. The Al Maniscalco Quartet's fourth release, One Blessed Day, proves the point. Shared experiences also work to the group's advantage. Drummer Eric Kennedy joined in 1996, bassist Jeff Reed in 1999, and pianist Roy Dunlap, a friend and musical associate of Al's since college days, signed on in 2003. The quartet was originally Baltimore-based although Maniscalco has relocated to Jacksonville, Florida. They may now be found at many eastern seaboard jazz venues.

The program comprises jazz standards and tunes from the American songbook, spiced with several originals. The gamut runs from Coltrane's challenging "Giant Steps" to "Funiculi Funicula" which will remind you of Sonny Rollins' many tongue-in-cheek explorations of musical chestnuts. The quartet's Latin-tinged take on "Round Midnight" is more up tempo than usual and Dunlap provides a touch of impressionism. Here and throughout you'll find that Maniscalco loves melody, starting most charts with a simple melodic statement. He plays tenor and soprano with feeling, and his musical ideas flow with ease. "I Have But One Heart" and "When I Look Into Your Eyes" display his ballad touch with the latter, by Leslie Bricusse, being particularly beautiful. "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" features an innovative Dunlap solo and travels outside before returning to folk and funk.

Maniscalco picks up the soprano sax twice. This haunting sound is well-tailored for his intense approach to "April Green," written by mentor Bunky Green, and again on his own "Rainy Wednesday" where a jazz waltz finish promises clearing skies. Another original, "A Buttaful Tune" is catchy in the Mancini manner. Dunlap contributes "Tell Me That You Love Me," also light-hearted. His relaxed swing on this tune will take you back to Nat Cole while Kennedy's lively calypso "One Blessed Day" provides a happy ending.

A fine CD with a whole lot of music. Enjoy!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Al Maniscalco Quartet
  • CD Title: One Blessed Day
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Jalkoda Records
  • Tracks: Round Midnight, April Green, It Could Happen To You, When I Look In Your Eyes, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Tell Me That You Love Me, Rainy Wednesday, Funiculi Funicula, A Buttaful Tune, I Have But One Heart, Giant Steps, One Blessed Day.
  • Musicians: Al Maniscalco (saxophones), Roy Dunlap (piano), Jeff Reed (bass), Eric Kennedy (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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