John Allred is a trombonist with chops and taste whom I last reviewed here when he and Wycliffe Gordon recorded the 2002 Arbors two-trombone release, Head to Head. Perhaps best known for his small-group recordings, his jazz orchestra experience includes Woody, Toshiko and The Carnegie Hall Jazz band. Jeff Barnhart is a top-flight stride pianist - and much more - as this album illustrates. Drummer Danny Coots, who has played a lot with Barnhart, and bassist Dave Stone make this foursome a unit with their empathy and creativity.
Fats Waller is saluted by the group with four of his compositions and the familiar " I Believe in Miracles" which Fats made his own. On "Miracles," Barnhart captures Waller's sly vocal style. The obscure "Anita" is a stride romp involving just Barnhart and Coots (what a drummer!) and " You Must be Losing Your Mind" is a toe-tapper with solos by all plus another vocal by Barnhart. Allred's trombone sings too. Fats' ballad " There's a Gal in My Life" is played with the beauty it deserves by Allred and Barnhart while his "Jitterbug Waltz" starts oh-so-relaxed, builds in intensity, and becomes Sonny Rollins' "Valse Hot."
And then there's Cole Porter. I have never imagined a stride version of "All Through the Night" but Allred and Barnhart make it happen. Now, after you've heard "Just One of Those Things " and are humming away, stop! That "In the Still of the Night" is Hoagy's - not Cole's -and you can't hum it. It's unusual and impressionistic. You'll sense the title in the main theme and you'll want to listen more than once.
"My One and Only Love" features Allred at his mellowest and Barnhart in sensitive comping plus a lyrical solo that's a long way from stride. An unusual choice, Charlie Haden's haunting "First Song" combines introspection and intensity.
In the small group swing genre, the quality of Arbors releases make reviewing choices difficult. I was attracted to The ABC's of Jazz by its musicianship and tune selection. It's one of the best I've heard in quite a while.