Lewis has been a staple of the Chicago jazz scene since 1961. He's played with many greats, from Ramsey Lewis, Tony Bennett, and Peggy Lee to Jack Teagarden and Al Hirt. He's also enjoyed steady work as a first-call studio musician.
For this recording Lewis has surrounded himself with other top-shelf working musicians whom he describes as his "best friends, musically and personally." They play together effortlessly, with that easy fit that comes from countless hours of grooving together.
Instant Groove is an eclectic mix of jazz; if you are looking for a nice, settled theme for the 68 or so minutes of music here, you will be disappointed. It's a bit more like walking through a carnival where every turn surprises. You've got two Henri Mancini compositions, a Johnny Mandel film score piece from 1966 ("The Shining Sea"), Wayne Shorter's "Edda" (first recorded in 1965 with Lee Morgan), a Gerry Mulligan cool-school swinger called "Line for Lyons," and even a romping Jelly Roll Morton piece from 1923 arranged by Lewis for cornet, alto trumpet, tuba and drums. West coast pianist Clare Fischer contributes "Morning" and the band covers "Saudade II" by Cannonball Adderly's bassist, Walter Booker. The set is rounded out with four originals by members of the band, including two from Lewis.
Across this delightfully heterogeneous collection you're going to hear some swing, Latin, both pretty and moody ballads, hard bop, and even ragtime. Lewis is polished smooth throughout; I especially love his fat, round sound on flugelhorn on the ballads like "The Shining Sea," "Two For The Road," and "Together We'll Stay." His band-mates are up to the task of this challenging mix of jazz styles, with many strong solos and great ensemble playing.
Lewis dedicated Instant Groove to the late Thomas Kini, his bassist on all seven of Lewis's previous Southport Records releases. I am sure Kini would smile listening to this latest Lewis recording, and I think you will too.