Review: Al Strong – LoveStrong Vol 1

Al Strong – LOVESTRONG VOL 1:   The keyword for Al’s great jazz trumpet work on this debut release, of course, is in his name… “strong”!  This is actually my first listen to Al, but you’ll hear (in the immediate) exactly how creative he can be on the ten tracks he offers up… with six originals and four super-solid arrangements of standards you’ll be well familiar with already.  You’ll fall in love with his total talent as you listen to the high-energy original opener, “Getaway 9“… his arrangement and playing gets some real dialog going on between all the instruments & players, & I can guarantee you will find yourself spinning this track over & over on your player!

Al was raised in D.C., where his grandfather introduced him to a (very) diverse cast of jazz characters, including Jimmy Smith, Ray Charles & Donald Byrd… and he clearly took those introductions to heart… you won’t believe his ultra-hip take & arrangement on “My Favorite Things“… truly the most upbeat & heartening iteration of that classic I have ever heard – sheer joy abounds!  Al is also not one who forgets his roots… you’ll definitely hear his grandmother’s soulful Black church experience shining through his wailing horn on “Ci’s Blues“… I just loved this track, and it clocks in at 7:01, so there’s plenty of room for all his players to get their licks in on it as well.  The list of players is far too long to itemize here, so check them all out on his album/credits page.

If your heart is yearning for a laid-back & mellow jazz ballad, you’ll find yourself in love (in the immediate, folks) with the wonderful “Liquid“… his flugelhorn on this one is simply amazing!  He pulls out emotions you didn’t even remember you had, and there is some grand organ work going on behind the scenes on this splendid song, too!

It was Al’s down & funky arrangements of the jazz standard “Blue Monk” (it’s also the album single) that made it my personal favorite of the songs offered up… the keyboard & organ work on this one are just killer!  If you’re looking for a gift for a friend who has ears for super-jazz – this is IT, folks!

I can guarantee that you will find something you love on Al’s great album!  I give him (and his players) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 – meaning that he also gets a “PICK” for “best trumpet-led jazz release”.  To get more information about this outstanding young player, go to the Al Strong website (and be sure to tell him you read about his work here).      Rotcod Zzaj

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Dick Metcalf (aka Rotcod Zzaj) is a globe-hopping musician and poet who spent many years roving the world until he finally settled in his current abode, Lacey, Washington... just down the road from Seattle. He started IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION magazine in 1990 (still being published), and Contemporary Fusion Reviews magazine in 2016