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After Midnight - Autumn Leaves

Reviewed by Cam Miller and published in The American Rag, July 2009
Grade: A-

"After Midnight, a swinging Colorado sextet, made its west coast debut at the Sacramento jazzer three years ago, impressed a lot of people in the process, and is still looking for a second invitation.  A darned shame, too, because these guys cook.

"These guys," led by clarinetist Roger Campbell, also include vibraphonist Rick Weingarten, pianist Justin Adams, guitarist/vocalist Mike McCullough, bassist Ced Forsyth and drummer Jim Moore.


The Artie Shaw Grammercy Five book is the AM's principal target though there's also a terrific take of "Rose Room" that echoes Benny Goodman's chart every step of the way.  Otherwise, welcome to the world of Artie Shaw even if he had no vibes in his group and AM is short a harpsichord.


Campbell and his band mates give a hint of what lies ahead by opening the session with a swinging "Autumn Leaves" that gives each musician open space to demonstrate his considerable skills.  "Stardust" follows with a splash of Adams' proclivity for exploration and Campbell's willingness to replicate Shaw's patented solo.  McCullough handles the vocal adequately as he does on both "Blues in the Night" and "Begin the Beguine".


No question however it's the instrumentals though that make you want to shake a leg.  Items like "The Chaser" with McCullough providing a voice-guitar unison treatment; a grooving "The Grabtown Grapple" with tight work by Campbell and Weingarten; the tuneful "Back Bay Shuffle," another Shaw composition, and the ever popular "Summit Ridge Drive" that Campbell and Adams express on their own terms.


"'S Wonderful" also gets a good working over and in its sole venture into the Benny Goodman library, the combo's "Rose Room" is true to the BG chart from flag fall to finish.


And to close up shop, the band turns its sight on the Shaw theme, "Nightmare," a moody, dark melody written by Shaw, perhaps as a reminder to himself of his frequent marriages that ended in divorce just as frequently."