While this CD is almost two years old, we received it quite recently. West Coast reedman Michael O’Neill assembled a fine quintet for a session featuring vocalist Kenny Washington.
O’Neill succeeds in his attempt to utilize the singer’s unique voice as "just another horn." The New Orleans born vocalist delivers conventional vocals on "It’s Alright With Me" and "The Nearness Of You." The quintet’s reading of "The Nearness Of You" is as good as any we’ve heard in many years. The leader plays clarinet on the Hoagy Carmichael classic.
Michael O’Neill contributes three of his own compositions to this album. "Masai" makes good use of the talents of Washington and percussionist Danilo Paiz. "Kilimanjaro" and "Grey Whale Cove" are originals as well. The latter is probably this reviewer’s favorite track with O’Neill delivering a passionate solo on tenor. There is some very nice work by pianist Murray Lowe who appears on this and one other track.
Kenny Washington is the center of attention on Juan Tizol’s "Caravan" and "Bye Bye Blackbird" from 1926. Michael Bluestone, the pianist on six of the eight tracks, gets a chance to show his stuff on "Caravan." "Blackbird" swings ceaselessly with nice work from the rhythm section and the leader’s clarinet. The Long And The Short Of It
is a nice blend of straight-ahead jazz standards and original material performed by a seasoned quintet.