The Mike Longo Trio
(Consolidated Artists Prod. – 2001)
by John Barrett
Their credits are impressive, their music even more so. Ray Mosca drummed for the Billy Taylor Trio, replacing the great Ed Thigpen; Mike Longo played with Dizzy, and studied under Oscar Peterson, no less. You can hear Oscar’s influence on “How High the Moon”: Mike intersperses warm chords with sly bluesy phrases. Mosca keeps the cymbals rolling, and Longo gets more elaborate as the track progresses. (Check the fast quote of “Jitterbug Waltz”, followed by Guaraldi comps.) “All or Nothing at All” also sounds like Vince: it’s reflective, and told with thick chords. Ben Brown’s bass-walk is good, as is the piano solo – a soft murmur, heavy with thought. ‘Trane’s Blues” gets a dainty treatment: it starts like Red Garland’s “Hey Now”, then turns more visceral. Ben’s solo hits a three-note riff, which Mosca accentuates by a single hard snare – arresting.
“Oleo” SIZZLES: the cymbals are everywhere, and Mike is deliriously fast. His solo takes fragments of the theme, arranging them in different ways. (There’s even a Monk reference!) “Wildflower” gets the Tyner treatment, lush and fraught with atmosphere … and romance pours from “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”, with its theme streamlined and its harmonies unexpected. When the block chords arrive, it’s time to stop dancing. Mike knows all the styles … and more importantly, knows how to use them.
With meditative sweetness, Longo coasts through the verse of “Without a Song”; this yields to a quiet theme and a virile bass. Brown is a constant presence, varying his steps always, while Mike stays quiet and gives Ben the stage. Monk’s dissonance meets Newborn’s force on “From This Moment On” — this moment is gone in a flash, so listen while you can. “Bones” is your basic meandering blues: the theme is restless, and the solo told in slow chunky chords. Ideas materialize, are dropped for something else, and then reprised later – uneven but nice. And you MUST hear “Savannah Calling”, a slow blues by James Moody. Mike plays it like Garland, starting with block chords and adding backroom phrases. Mosca stays soft and active, Brown walks grandly, and the sadness of the piano is palpable. Ben’s bowed solo has the tone of Paul Chambers, but the style of a guitarist – check out the high squeaks at the top of his range. This group has power to spare, plenty of experience, and a truckload of ideas. How can you lose?