Im Just a Lucky So & So
' They effortlessly weave their laid-back magic.' CD Review: ESPRESSO I'm Just A Lucky So & So By KEN IRWIN WMUA Jazz Music Director, Java Jazz Co-host Jazz Improv Magazine Staff The friendly swinging style of the Espresso Jazz Trio is evident from the opening bars of the first track, ' I'm Just A Lucky So & So.' This Ellington classic is treated tenderly with guitar and tenor setting the stage for Sandi Russell's 'cool' vocals. A lyrical guitar interlude from Russell follows Kerry Blount's lush tenor solo on the title track. Easy swinging is the order of the day on this CD of standards and classics. The Espresso Jazz Trio is Sandi Russell vocalist and guitars, Barbara Hilton on bass, and Kerry Blount on tenor sax, flute and soprano sax. Clarinetist Bob Sparkman and alto player and vocalist Joe Roderick join Russell and Hilton on two tracks: 'Crazy Rhythm' and 'It Had To Be You.' In all configurations, the participants in this recording are definitely on the same page as they effortlessly weave their laid-back magic. Russell and Hilton began playing together in 1993 and still perform as a duo at some of their gigs. Their performance together is seamless; two halves of a whole. Hilton is solid on bass. Hilton's duties are doubly difficult in a trio without a drummer, the usual timekeeper. 'Nature Boy,' an unusual ballad made famous by Nat 'King' Cole, receives a fresh and sensitive treatment by Espresso Jazz. The interweaving of flute and guitar create a lush bed for the poignant lyrics of this song. Kerry Blount's playing adds color and dimension to these recordings. Listen to his poetic solo on 'Embraceable You.' His tenor is front and center on the Rodgers & Hart classic, 'My Romance,' and Harold Arlen's 'Come Rain Or Come Shine.' Blount adds the soprano sax to ' On A Clear Day.' Soprano, tenor, or flute, Blount and Russell mesh seamlessly and Russell's vocals seem to float above the instruments. My favorite tracks include the breezy Latin Jobim composition, ' Triste,' and the happy, fun loving rendition of 'Crazy Rhythm ' that features a great alto solo from Joe Roderick, and 'It Had To Be You,' a vocal duet from Roderick and Russell with a decidedly New Orleans flavor thanks to Bob Sparkman's clarinet work. The session ends with a swinging rendition of another Ellington classic, 'Caravan.' Blount's tenor solo communicates the exotic flavor of the tune while Russell's guitar sets an almost country swing pace. This CD is a collection of favorites from musicians who form a working band. Their familiarity with each other lends itself to more natural, intimate, and sensitive readings of these classics. ----------------- ESPRESSO JAZZ is a rich brew of choice standards from the Great American Songbook. The smoky vocals and swinging guitar of Sandi Russell set the stage for this eclectic combo. A New England native, Sandi has performed in musical venues throughout the East Coast. After a stint with the jazz quintet, Sweet Basil, Russell followed her muse to Kansas City where she pursued a successful solo career. The City of Fountains had a lasting effect on Sandi's musical style and became the keystone to her brand of 'bluesy jazz'. In 1993, Russell returned to New England and teamed with bassist, Barbara Hilton, for a jazz performance at First Night Cape Cod in Orleans, MA. Hilton's deep, pulsating, double bass added the perfect rhythmic punch and the rich essence of ESPRESSO JAZZ began to perk. The duo continues to share their brand of quiet cookin' at many fine New England restaurants. Catch them the first Friday of each month at Chandler's, Yankee Candle's North American flagship restaurant in South Deerfield, MA. During the fall of 1999, ESPRESSO JAZZ recorded their debut CD, All Of Me . This live recording from Avocet Studios features Russell, Hilton, and the spirited clarinet of Bob Sparkman. A veteran of the NYC jazz scene, Sparkman's credits include a stint at Eddie Condon's Jazz Club where he performed with Doc Cheatham, John Bunch, and Billy Butterfield. James Lincoln Collier, historian for Ken Burns' PBS series 'JAZZ ' said of ESPRESSO 'This is just the sort of eclectic chamber jazz that we desperately need.' ESPRESSO JAZZ 's millenium offering I'm Just A Lucky So & So is a mellow blend of standards featuring Russell, Hilton, and saxophonist / flutist Kerry Blount. A recording artist with Atlantic Records, Warner Brothers, and London Records; Blount added a dark richness to the mix. Radio host, Ken Irwin of WMUA's Java Jazz described the collaboration - 'The participants are definitely on the same page, as they effortlessly weave their laid-back magic.' In 2001, ESPRESSO JAZZ poured out another steamy release with their third recording- Jazz 'N' Samba . This caffeinated brew of latin and jazz standards features Russell, Hilton, Blount, and drummer Tom Rinaldi. The addition of Rinaldi brought a new depth to the trio.Tom's swing and latin grooves propelled the combo to new heights. Jazz reviewer, Keith Hannaleck described the four piece ensemble as 'world class talent ... a full-bodied brew that offers a dynamic blend of genres.' Sandi Russell and Barbara Hilton recently completed their fourth independent release from Avocet Studios . The 2003 recording titled- The Blues Are Brewin' is a compilation of jazz blues and swing standards. All of the songs chosen for this CD were written during the '20s, '30s & '40s. Many were rediscovered from the archives of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. On board for this session with Russell and Hilton are Brattleboro, Vermont drummer Richard Mayer and Paradise City Jazz trumpeter Dave Pinardi. Mayer's unique light touch and Pinardi's vintage New Orleans sound help to keep the Espresso machine perkin' on this latest project.