Oop! by Calgary-based trumpeter Al Muirhead exemplifies the reasons that the American songbook continues to inspire jazz musicians some eight decades after many of its tunes were originally written. Accompanied by iconic musicians PJ Perry on alto saxophone and Tommy Banks on piano, Muirhead virtually owns the compositions presented here and embodies the approaches that are essential to getting deeply inside this time-honoured material. All three of these musicians (as well as percussionist Rogerio Boccato who guests on Black Orpheus) possess a longstanding connection to this music and play it in the most natural way possible.
Miles Davis’ The Theme (based on the chord changes to Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm) opens the album with Muirhead and Perry playing the line in harmony over Banks’ relentlessly swinging piano. Perry, one of the world’s finest exponents of the bebop tradition, solos brilliantly followed by Muirhead who exhibits impeccable taste and tone in his relaxed, melodic delivery. Tommy Banks plays one perfect chorus of unaccompanied piano, demonstrating his blues-infused bop style. Rhythm changes, as we refer to tunes based on the classics, are a test piece for jazz musicians and The Theme firmly establishes the impressive credentials of these players.
The ballad medley is a testament to the deceptively simple art of playing a melody beautifully. Alfred Newman’s Street Scene, featured in the overture of How To Marry A Millionaire, and an uncharacteristically languid reading of Mean To Me, are pleasant surprises from this superb trio of seasoned pros.