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ALBUM REVIEWS : *** ART FARMER/ FRANK MORGAN/ LOU LEVY/ ERIC VON ESSEN/ ALBERT "TOOTIE" HEATH "Central Avenue Reunion" Contemporary

May 27, 1990|ZAN STEWART

Recorded live in the Bay Area a year ago, this quintet session harks back to the halcyon days of the 1940s Central Avenue scene, when jazz could be heard in countless clubs almost 'round the clock. Trumpeter Farmer and altoist Morgan were bandstand-mates then and they both still embrace the be-bop style: Farmer is a little more true and precise in his improvisations, whereas Morgan likes to let his lines squiggle chaotically on occasion. While the tunes are solid (e.g., Miles Davis' "Donna Lee," Gene de Paul-Don Raye's "Star Eyes," Farmer's "Farmer's Market," Sonny Clark's "Blue Minor" and "Cool Struttin' "), the group doesn't achieve a 'band' feel and the versions never jell into a groove. Farmer's ballad style on "Embraceable You" is ever eloquent and Levy gets his moments as the Bud Powell-based pianist he's long been.

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