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CD Reviews: Metheny alumni make the most of originals

| Sunday, Aug. 13, 2006

'As We Speak' Mark Egan (Wavetone) Three and a half stars

Bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb are alumni of the Pat Metheny Group so it's no surprise they know how to work with a guitarist. On "As We Speak" they are joined by John Abercrombie to create a Metheny-like form of jazz that is full of delightful play and great cohesion. On tunes such as the title cut, "Spirals" and "Mississippi Nights," Abercrombie and Egan work so closely together in presenting the themes it sometimes takes close observation at just who is presenting the lead voice. And sometimes that changes so fluidly it almost voids a decision. The work of Gottlieb naturally doesn't come into melodic play, but is so tied to the work of the other two it almost presents its own form of counterpoint. All the songs except a lively version of "Alone Together" are original, and all but two have a infectious mellowness. The last two on the two-disc set come across as trio improvisations. They aren't quite as catchy, but they show the same great teamwork.

-- Bob Karlovits

'Reflections' Tim Stevens and Leonard Johnson III (Pittsburgh International) Two and a half stars

"Reflections" is not only a look at the work of singer Tim Stevens, but also at the jazz scene in Pittsburgh. Stevens, head of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP, is joined by such regional stalwarts as his colleague, keyboardist Leonard Johnson III, trumpeter Chuck Austin, sax ace Kenny Blake, guitarist Luther DeJarunett, trombonist Nelson Harrison and bassist Larry Estes, among others. They do songs ranging the classic "Skylark" to a strong lineup of originals such as "Hold On To Your Good Thing" and "The Sadness In My Eyes." The CD is a compilation of two vinyl discs Stevens made in the '80s. It is available at Stedeford's on the North Side, Dorsey's in Homewood, Upbeat in Wilkinsburg and at Border's Books & Music stores.

-- Bob Karlovits

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