A lot of us jazz fans cut our listening teeth on Blue Note records by Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan and more. The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band's Hittin' the Blue Notes, Vol. 2 celebrates that classic sound with a set of swinging, hard-driving hard bop tunes.
Les DeMerle sat in the drummer's chair in the Harry James Orchestra for twelve years, and he brings to this project an exuberant and swinging propulsion, a crisp and brightly optimistic rhythmic drive to the sextet consisting of the rhythm team plus two reeds and a trumpet.
The opener sets the toneˇHorace Silver's "Sister Sadie," with Keith Holmes' opening solo on alto sax blistering the air, then drifting seamlessly into Marvin Ferebee's stinging trumpet turn that leads into manic grumble of Matt Vance's baritone saxophone, all in front of a sharp and concise and snappy rhythm groove. Herbie Hancock's classic "Cantalope Island," Clifford Brown's "Sandu," Lee Morgan's great "Sidewinder," and Benny Golson's "Killer Joe" keep things churning along in the same vein, with some very appealing diversions thrown in.
Burt Bachrach's "Alfie," slowed down, with a wonderful, slightly tipsy arrangement, loosens the mood, and makes you wonder why his work isn't done more often in jazz. His melodies on songs like "Always Something There to Remind Me" and "And Walk on By" just seem tailor-made for the jazz treatment.
A couple of bonuses: Bobby Troup's "Route 66," featuring DeMerle and Bonnie Eisle on vocals, both singers sounding very hip indeed; and the disc's two closers, a guest slot by blues great Jimmy Witherspoon, sounding very bluesy, indeed, on Count Basie's "Goin' to Chicago" and his own "Money's Gettin' Cheaper."
The cover photo shows Les DeMerle at the drummer's chair, grinning like he's having the time of his life; and that's the way the band sounds, too.