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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ

Mraz Offers Jazz as It Should Be

August 16, 1996|BILL KOHLHAASE

*** GEORGE MRAZ

"Jazz"

Milestone

Bassist Mraz opens this album on a particularly pedestrian note with an undistinguished version of the warhorse "Moonlight in Vermont." But don't let that stop you from hearing the rest. From there, it improves considerably with the love theme from "Cinema Paradiso," which features an especially lyrical solo from the bassist and string backing also played by Mraz through the magic of overdub.

Further on, the album moves through mellow interpretations of Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," Bill Evans' "Your Story" and Jimmy Rowles' now-classic "The Peacocks," among others. It boasts an especially empathetic set of musicians: drummer Billy Hart, pianist Richie Beirach and saxophonist Rich Perry, who brings something of Shorter's rich tenor tone to "Infant Eyes."

Keyboardist Larry Willis, appearing only on the Evans tune, makes the album's most moving statement with an improvisation that is at once harmonically rich and passionately stirring. Thankfully Mraz isn't over-amplified, instead fitting evenly into the proceedings while providing reserved, well-spaced support and easily followed solos. After a false start, "Jazz" is exactly what jazz should be.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended) and four stars (excellent).

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