Best known for his work with the late Freddie Cole, guitarist Randy Napoleon has created a sound and style for himself by eschewing jazz standards and, for the second time, has delved into the songbook of composer Gregg Hill. The genius of this idea is that Hill's material is clever enough to pique the ears of jazz fans, but accessible enough to entice those trying to figure out where and when to take the jazz plunge.
Napoleon teams up with a core of Quincy Davis/dr, Rick Roe/p and Aubrey Johnson/voc and a mix and match with Rodney Whitaker-Lucas LaFave/b, Walter Blanding/ts, Andrew Kim/tb and Anthony Stanco/tp for the interpretations. Roe gives a modal feel with rich horns in support on the muscular title tune, with Napoleon and Whitaker delivering swinging solos, while an understated "April Song" features the three in dreamy impressions.
Johnson uses her voice in a variety of designs and settings, harmonizing gloriously with the horns on the big and bold "Triple Play" while wordlessly bopping with the rhythm section digging in on "The Last Pop Tune". She's slinky on the swampy "Motel Blues" and nimble on the obstacle course lines with Kim on "Escape To Cat Island". A sensuous "The Lost Tune" has her lyrics gliding around Napoleon's tasty strings, while the highlight, a breezy "Spa-Taneity" features tricky lines that stop and start with Napoleon's guitar conversing with Johnson in both words and sounds. The band is tighter than Beyonce's leggings, and as melodic as Mozart's serenades
Napoleon is dynamite!