By Hrayr Attarian
Bobby Lewis - cornet (2, 9, 11) / trumpet (1, 3, 7, 10) / flugelhorn (4, 5, 6, 8)
Pat Mallinger - Soprano, alto, and tenor saxophone (1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10)
Jim Ryan - Piano (1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10)
Jeremy Kahn - Piano (5, 6, 7)
Andy Brown- Guitar (2)
John Moulder- Guitar (5, 7)
Stewart Miller- Bass (all tracks except 11)
Jeff Stitely - Drums (all tracks except 6, 11)
Alejo Poveda - Percussion (1, 5, 8)
Chicago stalwart, master trumpeter Bobby Lewis has honed his unique and easily recognizable style during his long career. On his thirteenth release as a leader the laid back and captivating Count Me In he and a group of long-standing collaborators interpret a delightful mix of originals and standards.
The title track, a Lewis composition, opens with a boppish melodic head. Pianist Jim Ryan contributes fast-paced erudite rhythmic flourishes while bassist Stewart Miller takes a crisp and inventive solo. Drummer Jeff Stately performs bursts of spontaneous polyrhythms with understated elegance. Saxophonist Pat Mallinger improvises with fiery passion that perfectly complements Lewis’ ardent extemporization with characteristic burnished tones.
Lewis’ trademark lyricism is perhaps best heard on the cornet. The darker, fuller sound of the instrument glows with incandescence on the intimate duet with guitarist Andy Brown “Autumn Nocturne”. The tune is a poetic dialogue between two splendidly eloquent musicians. Equally haunting is Lewis’ unaccompanied take on the melancholic “Always”.
On two impressionistic pieces Lewis switches to Flugelhorn. “Snowfall” is a trio with pianist Jeremy Kahn and Miller. Kahn’s crystalline chords are like icicles on trees in a serene pastoral scene while Miller’s reverberations are reminiscent of the crackling of logs in a fireplace. Lewis blows with emotive warmth evoking the comfort and pleasure of sitting in front of the hearth on a wintery day.
Another is Antonio Carlos Jobim’s effervescent “Brigas Nuncas Mais” that features percussionist Alejo Poveda who adds a distinctly Brazilian flavor. Lewis embellishes the melody with mellow, sundrenched notes that match guitarist John Moulder’s simmering and intelligent lines.
As with all Lewis’ releases Count Me In is a highly enjoyable and cohesive album. Not surprising as Lewis is a superlative musician who, as always, has surrounded himself with sympathetic creative minds. This is mainstream jazz at its most accomplished.