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JAZZ ALBUM REVIEW : Well-Traveled Duo Stays Fresh : *** BILLY MITCHELL, JOHN BOLIVAR "Live All Night Long" USA Music Group

August 27, 1993|BILL KOHLHAASE

The team of pianist Billy Mitchell and saxophonist John Bolivar is one of the most active on the Southern California club and concert scene. So it's appropriate that this recording is a collection of live performances reflecting the band's mainstream concert presentations.

After a string of recordings for a number of different labels that highlighted their original, more contemporary-minded material, this disc is a refreshing change.

Recorded at a number of stops on the well-traveled band's itinerary--including sessions in Tahiti, Ensenada, Sao Paulo and Las Vegas--the group shows its mettle on nine tunes, eight of them some of the jazz world's best-known ("All Blues," "Georgia on My Mind," "On Green Dolphin Street"--the exception being Lonnie Liston Smith's "French Affair").

One reason it manages to sound fresh despite the familiarity of the material is Mitchell's strong, percussive style of keyboard play, even in accompaniment. And when given a lush Brazilian arrangement, such as "French Affair," the pianist is at his best.

Bolivar's contributions are easily as upbeat and vivacious. His flute work is particularly enlivening, as on "Cherokee" and Nat Adderley's "Jive Samba" (which also features Bobby Rodriguez's punctual trumpet work). When he fires up the baritone, he's particularly soulful and exhilarating.

The rhythm section--Mitchell, bassist Hillard Wilson and drummer Quentin Dennard--are adept at bringing the beat forward, a ploy that 's particularly effective on Bobby Timmons' classic blue-funk number "Moanin'."

But they're also capable of subtlety, as displayed on "My Funny Valentine." For fans of this busy band, "Live All Night Long" will bring the concert home, even when the band is back in Tahiti.

Albums are rated on a scale of * (poor) to **** (excellent), with *** denoting a solid recommendation. * Billy Mitchell and John Bolivar appear tonight at 8 at Randell's, 3 Hutton Centre Drive, Santa Ana. No cover. (714) 556-7700.

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