D.D. Jackson; Greg Osby; Lou Caputo 

Suite for New York; St. Louis Shoes; Urban Still Life

D.D. Jackson made his name as pianist for one-time Oakland native David Murray. His instrumental style has often been compared to Don Pullen and Jaki Byard, and while this represents a strongly creative current in the contemporary keyboard world, all of these players have at times pushed their renegade approach to arrangement almost to the point of deconstruction. Thus, it's more surprising to see Jackson pull off an extremely ambitious Suite that incorporates widely divergent musical and extramusical elements in praise of the jazz capital. The tidiest of composers would be challenged to organize all the different styles that Jackson and his cohorts evoke -- from R&B to free jazz and from Ellingtonia to supercharged Latin. But Jackson not only succeeds here, he does it with real élan. Most impressive.

Though alto saxophonist Greg Osby also has made his home in New York for many years now, he tips his hat to his hometown on St. Louis Shoes, presenting a program that includes such musical tributes as the Duke's "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" (complete with bowed bass) and, of course, Handy's "St. Louis Blues." He also works in interesting arrangements of standards by Monk and Dizzy, while showing that he's one of the best at taking the neo-bop thing far enough out that it actually has something "neo" about it.

Multi-reedman Lou Caputo will be a less familiar name, and it may be a little hard to pinpoint the thematic focus of Urban Still Life, which is really just an excellent program dominated by jazz (as opposed to pop-song) writing by the likes of Monk, Mingus, Billy Strayhorn, and Nat Adderley (almost all jazz writing evokes the urban, after all). But the arrangements, for various small to medium groups, are outstanding, and Caputo has gathered together like-minded veteran modernists who can solo convincingly and, best of all, sound like they're having a ball.


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