This disc pairs two of the giants of Chicago jazz offering a variety of settings that could serve as the soundtrack for a seminar in jazz styles. Marshall Vente has been prominent in the Chicago scene for three decades as an arranger, leader, radio host, festival impressario and, of course, a first rate pianist. As an arranger, Vente apprenticed with the great Gil Evans. He's led the brass driven nonet Project 9 for 23 years and is also the leader of the Latin jazz ensemble Tropicale. Both groups are featured on this album.
Eldee Young has spent much of his time in Asia in recent years, but as the bassist for the legendary Ramsey Clark Trio and the co-leader of Young/Holt Unlimited he stands as one of the great soul jazz pioneers and as a prominent Chicago jazzman for half a century. Even before that, he was nearly as prominent in the blues field, playing alongside artists like Charles Brown and T-Bone Walker.
Young and Vente's musical relationship extends over 15 years, and "Step Up To The Mic" is their third joint release on Middle Coast Records. They're joined by a variety of guests, including Vente's two working groups, Brazilian guitarist Paulinho Garchia, saxophonist Jeff Newell, harmonica wiz Howard Levy and Vente's drummer of 25 years, Isidro Perez. With seventeen musicians to work with, Vente's skills as an arranger are put to the test and he passes it masterfully. Whether it's a playful rendering of Ma Rainey's "C.C. Rider," a tough bop approach to Dizzy's "Birk's Works," the big band blast of "Just In Time" or a soulful and sensitive take on Jobim's "If You Never Come To Me," both the arrangements and performances are ivariably satisfying.
This is Chicago jazz at it's very best, and it deserves to be heard around the world.