THEY WALK WITH MUSIC: HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOEL FORBES PLAY HOAGY CARMICHAEL

HOAGY HARRY ROSSANO

What does Hoagy Carmichael’s music sound like in your mind?  I think of leaves rustling and water flowing over small stones; I think of a musical playfulness allied with deep feelings, sadness and joy.  His music has been given life on a million pianos and by tens of millions of singers and instrumentalists — but it is sublimely expressed on a new CD by the trio of Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Joel Forbes, string bass.

I WALK WITH MUSIC: THE HOAGY CARMICHAEL SONGBOOK is both familiar and fresh, both embracing and sweetly surprising.  Harry, Rossano, and Joel are masters of small-group playing: each of them is a superb soloist, able to entrance us all by himself.  But they excel at swing synergy, so that this trio is much more than the three soloists assembled in a room.  Their deep empathy for Hoagy’s melodies comes through: they do not use the chord changes as a reason to convert the composer’s deep melodic lines into a series of ninths and thirteenths.  Indeed, this CD is a master class in singing through instruments.

The songs, as well, balance the well-known and compositions deserving wider recognition: MOON COUNTRY / IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENING / I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL / NEW ORLEANS / THE NEARNESS OF YOU / I WALK WITH MUSIC / TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / ONE MORNING IN MAY / GEORGIA ON MY MIND / APRIL IN MY HEART / JUBILEE / SKYLARK.

Harry and Rossano — sweet melodists with great inventiveness and agility — are in inspired form.  Neither of them will mind if I take a few lines to celebrate Joel Forbes, unsung hero of so many sessions and recordings.  Bassists get very little respect; when I asked one of them if he approved of some videos I’d made (and I really wanted his opinion), he said, “Well, I’m only the bass player.”  But Milt Hinton always reminded us that the string bass was the base, the foundation on which everything rested.  And Milt would recognize Joel Forbes as a true master — participating in the ensemble without trying to dominate it, his sound rich and full, his time marvelously supportive, his notes the right ones.  I hope to be able to write about a Joel Forbes Trio date or CD someday — until then, I hope listeners aren’t so entranced by the tenor saxophone and the piano that they neglect Mister Forbes.

Enough words.  Want to hear some music?

Here’s a tender, glowing APRIL IN MY HEART:

NEW ORLEANS (with the rarely-heard verse):

The title tune, I WALK WITH MUSIC, more like a joyous romp:

The CD is available through the usual sources: CDBaby, Amazon, and iTunes. It’s a real pleasure to hear these masters walk with Hoagy’s music.

May your happiness increase!

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