The Mike Longo Trio,
Still Swingin'
(Consolidated Artists, 2001)

This is the kind of music that brings to mind a classy restaurant or club with light musical entertainment in the background. The selections on Still Swingin', the latest CD by the Mike Longo Trio, would add just the right touch to that type of atmosphere.

The Mike Longo Trio consists of pianist and producer Mike Longo, bass player Ben Brown and drummer Ray Mosca. The CD comprises a selection of standard jazz classics with a few Longo originals thrown into the mix.

The trio's leader and namesake has a background that includes two great mentors. One was the pianist Oscar Peterson, whom the trio pays tribute to on "How High the Moon." This particular rendition showcases Longo's distinctive playing style on the piano. The melody is fairly captivating and the trio does a nice job with this tribute.

Longo's second teacher was his close friend, John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. According to All About Jazz, "Longo served for a number of years as Dizzy's pianist/music director. ... [Longo] more than lived up to Dizzy's exacting standards." That is high compliment, indeed! As I listen to Still Swingin' I would say that the kudos are deserved.

Looking at the CD liner notes, you would find out that Longo came up with the idea for the CD while watching a jazz special. He was truly motivated by a segment focused on the Basie Band featuring Billie Holliday and Lester Young. Seeing the original audience for that concert as they danced in apparent ecstasy to the music, Longo felt the need to produce a contemporary equivalent.

Some of the selections he chose "to provide a musical experience that serves as a vehicle for the human spirit to soar to heights that make someone feel that it's great to be alive" include "Trane's Blues" (Coltrane), "It Never Entered My Mind," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" (both by Rogers and Hart) and "Oleo" (Sonny Rollins). One thing I like about jazz is that no two individuals or bands play the same tune the same way. The musicians can't help but put their own personality into the sound. In this way, even old tunes have a way of sounding fresh.

Longo has two original pieces on Still Swingin'. "The Night Is Love" is best explained in the liner notes as "a beautiful bossa nova treatment of a lyrical, plaintive melody set against 'tension and release' type harmonies." The second Longo original is "Bones," dedicated to the late bassist Sam Jones. As Jones was a tall, thin individual, the title is apt. At seven minutes, this is one of the longer selections on the CD as well.

Still Swingin' is a pretty decent standard jazz CD. Since Longo is a pianist, it should not be surprising that the piano takes center stage. I feel most jazz aficionados would find something they liked on this CD, whether it was Longo's original pieces or the trio's personal spin on old favorites. I have heard (and reviewed) better jazz CDs. But I still have room to appreciate Still Swingin', and so might you.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 13 July 2002

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