Friday, May 26, 2006; Page WE08
THE VINCE LEWIS TRIO "Better Than Ever" JMP STEVE ABSHIRE/VINCE LEWIS" Live at the Mainstay" Noteworthy Jazz
JAZZ HAS never had a shortage of artists that deserve greater recognition, and certainly Virginia-based Vince Lewis is on that list. His recent CDs -- one a cozy studio trio session, the other a club recording that pairs him with fellow guitarist Steve Abshire -- will delight fans of sunny, unencumbered swing.
The CDs have a lot in common. They're laced with classic pop and jazz tunes, nimbly executed and often showcasing Lewis's lyrical flair and sleek improvisations. On "Better Than Ever," Lewis deftly explores pop, swing, bop, soul-jazz and bossa nova tunes with the close support of his seasoned trio mates: bassist Jim Martin and drummer Rick Justice.
Throughout, Lewis displays an engaging tunefulness that's hard to resist, whether he's introducing a classic melody or shrewdly soloing, as on "It Might as Well Be Spring." Apart from Lewis's "Sue's Waltz," a brisk, triple-meter charmer, the tunes are familiar: "On Green Dolphin Street," "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Shiny Stockings," among others. But it doesn't take Lewis and company long to convince you that, in the right hands at least, some melodies will never wear out their welcome.
"Live at the Mainstay," recorded on Maryland's Eastern Shore last spring, is the product of an inspired pairing. Lewis and Abshire have distinct but complementary guitar tones and share a taste for vintage tunes. In fact, their chemistry is so obvious that they often sound as if they're completing each other's thoughts here, as they move through a set list that includes lovely, fluid and sometimes intricately arranged performances of "Charade," "Wave," "Body and Soul," "Out of Nowhere" and other standards. Of course, it doesn't hurt that bassist Joe Byrd and drummer Chuck Redd provide smooth propulsion in ways that often recall their alliance with Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel in the "Great Guitars."
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Friday at the Smithonian Jazz Cafe.