Mike Longo Trio,
Live at the Detroit
International Jazz Festival

(CAP, 2003)

Going to a concert is more fun than staying home, but concert recordings don't always work. This one from the 2002 Detroit International Jazz Festival does. You can tell the audience knows the music and digs the performance. The trio feeds off that and gets even stronger as the set goes on. That more than compensates for an occasional clinker and the usual spoken intros that are redundant after a couple of listens. (These are conveniently placed in separate tracks in case you want to skip them or edit them out.)

Mike Longo was Dizzy Gillespie's regular pianist for nine years and played with him part time for 16 more. He's also played with half of the other jazz greats you can think of. Drummer Ray Mosca and bassist Santi Debriano have their own long lists of credits.

The trio plays the hell out of a mix of familiar jazz and pop songs. You'd never guess it was their first performance together as a group. Longo has enough technique to swing at any tempo and to add beautiful two-handed ornamentation to the ballads. Mosca and Debriano are solid support and get just the right amount of space for their own fine solo work.

The concert kicks off with an upbeat version of "My Funny Valentine." Then it's on to "Trane's Blues" and other jazz standards by Monk, Shorter and Gillespie. The audience is appreciative throughout, but one of the biggest crowd pleasers is a long medley from Gershwin's Porgy & Bess. It features a funky performance of "Summer Time." Things wrap up with 10 swinging minutes of Dizzy's "A Night in Tunisia." I'd say the pianist knows the piece pretty well. Bet he's played it thousands of times.

Even on his first time out with a new trio, some jazz fans might want Longo to be more adventurous, but he's clearly enjoying himself and I never tire of hearing fine old songs played the way they should be. Everything comes off with an easy command that will have most listeners smiling. This is highly recommended.

In spite of my earlier comment about spoken-intros, I can't end without a plug for the emcee at the beginning and end of the concert. He's not mentioned in the notes, but the voice could only belong to Ed Love, who's been doing jazz radio in Detroit for more than 40 years. Don't miss his show whenever you're in Hockeytown. (It's not just Motown to Redwing fans.)

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 12 July 2003