My first review of the new year is – ironically enough – an album that seems to have a couple of different issue dates. Jazz guitarist Michael Higgins’ effort, The Moon And The Lady Dancing, appears to have been available in some spots last Summer, but the album’s official street date is January 1st, 2009.
But we’re here to talk about the music, not the calendar, and I’m happy to report that there is a lot to like on this effort from Higgins and his trio. The talented veteran of the Los Angeles jazz scene, who not only has an extensive musical education but has also played alongside many of the greats, has put together a nice collection that features most traditional jazz but with a few nice innovative touches.
Joined by bassist Jay Anderson (who also acted as producer) and drummer Adam Nussbaum, Higgins gives us an even dozen tracks that are mostly his own compositions. The exceptions are the old Kern-Robin standard “Love In Vain,” and a Dietz-Schwartz piece, “Alone Together.” Both have been part of the jazz songbook for years and are good choices for the trio, with the latter an especially a good showcase for Higgins’ smooth and softly melodic guitar play.
Among Higgins’ own compositions, I especially enjoyed the hint of a Calypso beat in “The Last Farewell,” a song he dedicates to his parents. I also found myself appreciating the title song of the album, which really spotlights the guitarist’s playing style.
My favorite on the album was probably “Zoot’s Blues.” A good listen, and one that gives each of the trio’s members space to shine, but it was the title that first caught my attention. I’m a fan of Zoot Sims, but it turns out that it was actually written by Higgins for his cat. (Of course, if he named the cat Zoot then Higgins must be a fan of the sax legend too, right?)
If you enjoy solid jazz performed by guitar, bass, and drums, and you appreciate listening to talented pros who are in a zone with their playing partners, then give this one a try. (Follow album link for clips.)