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CD REVIEW: The Boss of the Walking Bass - A Tribute to Leroy Vinnegar
By Ben Ohmart - 05/21/2007 - 10:34 AM EDT

Artist: The Boss of the Walking Bass
Genre: Jazz
CD Review:
There’s much excitement to be had in these 9 songs, filling out 71 minutes of instrumental jazz that is aimed at lifting high the light that is Leroy Vinnegar. There’s no doubt the man is a master, he of the walking bass, known the jazz world over for his busy and singular touch.

However, upon first play, I had trouble locating the bass. One press on Bass Boost and I heard Leroy at once, though still rather in the back considering the nature of the tribute. Perhaps it wasn’t a tribute. Recorded in 1996, the cd has a 2000 copyright on it, and the eulogy written inside the booklet by pianist Jessica Williams talks of him having ‘graduated’ (i.e. passed on) at some point. So this disc may not have been intended to be the master’s final or tributary work.

Regardless, it is a jazz album that’s one of the best of the Jazz Focus label. Whether it’s the happy, go ducky ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ or the hard to spot ‘I’m in the Mood For Love’ (hey, that’s one of the charms of Real Swing jazz: figuring out what they’re playing), the delight this trio brings to these standards is like best friends at play. Complimenting, driving, having fun at the beach, if beaches were things called smoky, raunchy nightclubs.

This piano driven album is steered with charged skill by Jessica Williams, a lead in her own right, and Mel Brown with a drum set that refuses to quit barking. That and the master Vinnegar his self makes for a delightful romp. There’s not much that can touch it, unless you pull an entire orchestra against it, and that wouldn’t be fair. Heed a little intimacy and get down to smooth jazz, fella.

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