Mike Longo Trio +2,
To My Surprise
(Consolidated Artists Productions, 2011)

This time out, the Mike Longo Trio (Longo on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Lewis Nash on drums) are supplemented by Jimmy Owens on trumpet and flugelhorn and Lance Bryant on tenor sax, giving them the same instrumentation of the legendary bop bands from the '50s, which they take advantage of really well. The opening tune, an uptempo blowing session using the dorian scales so beloved by John Coltrane, introduces the theme and gives everyone a chance to stretch out. The playing is mighty, notes cascading like water rushing over Niagara Falls, swirling in a steaming fog as they hit the level surface. It's a huge and unique sound, accomplishing what every opening tune is supposed to: it makes you want to hear the rest of the album.

Longo is the glue that holds this particular craft together. He doesn't hog the spotlight but gives the ensemble and each of the musicians plenty of chances to sail the stormy seas, but he is always the calm center -- his backing behind other people's solos is superb and his own solos are beautifully put together, always with a logic and a clear direction; when he starts to play he knows where he's going and knows he has plenty of ways to get there. The other musicians are just as sound. Listening to them, you can tell they are listening to each other and playing both off of and to each other.

Both the ensemble playing and the solos have the strength and agility of masters. I once saw a woman in a circus do a high-wire act that was so skillfully and artfully done that it felt as though the wire was her natural home and the Earth was simply where she waited to get back up on high. Listening to this band reminded me of her. These guys demonstrate that same attitude, as though the music is where they live.

Listening to the Mike Longo Trio +2, I hear the old Blue Note albums from the '50s and '60s, the ones so prized by collectors now. It wouldn't surprise me to see collectors 40 or 50 years from now tracking down Mike Longo Trio CDs and paying big prices for them.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

31 March 2012

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