Jazz CD Reviews
Geoff Stradling, piano – Les is Mo’ – Origin Records
Published on May 8, 2007
(Geoff Stradling, piano, synthesizer; Rich Keller, soprano, alto and tenor sax; Bruce Lett, acoustic & electric bass; Rene Camacho, acoustic bass; Dave Karasony & Ramon Banda, drums; Michael Spiro, percussion, Gary Foster, flute on track 7)
Geoff Stradling is a man of many tastes. His Origin release gives his audience the chance to take a musical journey with him. The pristine sound that Stradling presents on the CD is an added bonus with Geoff himself both producing and engineering his maiden effort for the label. Recorded in February and August 2006, at Stradman Music (Stradling’s own studio?), Stradling has made an effort to explore a myriad of jazz styles, which he describes as a “collection of short stories.”
Let’s describe the journey: The CD begins with Les is Mo’, the title cut a tribute to the great Les McCann, who is still going strong today. It’s a funky piece and Rich Keller has a hot tenor solo. Stradling’s piano playing is sparkling and has a Latinesque feel. Ramon Banda’s drums are upfront and push the beat along. His cymbal work is dominant. You Don’t Know That follows and is a fast waltz which is propelled by Keller’s soprano and Stradling’s fast crystalline runs. It really has a catchy beat and Keller and Geoff play well off each other.
Now How Much Would You Pay is described as a right hand/left hand piece with the sax playing off Geoff’s right hand and the bass doubling off Stradling’s left hand. It’s a challenging number and mid-number the sax takes over with a full range series of choruses. Karasony makes his presence felt here as well with a strong finish. Eventually is a stunner with Geoff in an Bill Evans mood, Bruce Lett laying down a mellow bass line, and Keller again showing off his tenor chops. Eventually is taken at a just-right pace with Stradling impressing the listener with his lyrical, moody composition. This track deserves some air time on the radio and would make great late night listening in a dark room overlooking a city scape.
Stella by Starlight is fully Latinized in an Afro Cuban beat with Michael Spiro getting to show off his percussion skills. Rene and Ramon shine here as well, but it’s mostly a feature for percussion and Geoff’s Latin chops. Let’s Mosey swings in a straight-ahead manner and Keller shows he can play in most any jazz style; here in a post bop swagger. Geoff has several swinging choruses himself. Lett’s bass solo stands out here as well.
The journey continues with a trip to the tropics with Tradewinds. Gary Foster provides the flute solo that opens the winds and you can feel the warm breeze before Geoff steps in with some introspective playing that completes the mood. It’s samba meeting Afro Cuban. The Smile on Your Face is more jazz waltzing in a trio setting and I enjoyed Lett’s bass lines again. Stradling has a jazz feel for sparkling piano runs that both stimulate and relax the listener.
Stradling describes And There It Was, as a “fusion” jazz samba, which is quite a jazz melting pot. It’s a stew that blends Karasony’s strong drumming with more of Keller’s sax mastery. Stradling ends our jazz journey with Maybe Next Time, a ballad featuring electric bass, keyboards, synthesizer,and soprano sax.
Geoff Stradling’s Origin release has a little something for everyone on the jazz spectrum – from straight ahead introspection to funky to Afro-Cuban. It will be interesting where he takes us next – whether it be another musical journey or a stop in a specific genre. With Les is Mo’ Stradling makes it an intriguing guess as to where his next recording will take us.
TrackList: Les is Mo’, You Don’t Know What, Now How Much Would You Pay, Eventually, Stella by Starlight, Let’s Mosey, Tradewinds, The Smile on Your Face, And There It Was, Maybe Next Time
– Jeff Krow