If both Larry Willis and trombone legend Slide Hampton think this guy is good, you know he can play. The session was elegant: Slide’s gutty, swinging ’bone contrasted gorgeously with Avi’s super-warm, super-mellow tone. The two interweaving ’bones soar over Jimmy Cobb’s shimmering cymbals and Larry’s richer-than-Godiva piano chords. The ballads are heart-stopping, with a couple of great medium groove swingers. Fred Kaplan gives highest marks: “Lebo is quite a discovery…He gets a burnished-bronze tone out of the ’bone, like a dark, soulful French horn…the electricity sparkles…” A Fi Super Disc.
1. Today's Night (J.Ford) -Listen to Sample
2. 24E (A. Lebo)
3. Let's Play (L. Willis) -Listen to Sample
4. Everything Happens To Me (M. Dennis/ T. Adair)
5. Our Delight (T. Dameron)
6. To Wisdom The Prize (L. Willis)
7. Wait (A. Lebo)
8. I'm Gonna Laugh You Out Of My Life (F. Ahlert/ J. Young) -Listen to Full Song
Finesounds: FI's Critics Recommend Great-Sounding Discs
For the sonic glories of purely acoustic jazz, it's back to Mapleshade, with Shades Of Brass by the Avi Lebo Double Trombone Quintet. Lebo hails from Tel Aviv, a classically trained trombonist who, after hearing a Slide Hampton record, shifted to jazz, moved to New York, tracked down Hampton himself for lessons, and now features the master as a sideman on his own debut disc. The other sidemen aren't chopped liver, either: pianist Larry Willis, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Jimmy Cobb, whose sound and cadences you'll clearly recognize as the same Cobb who played on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Talk about ride cymbals: nobody rides with more grace, or sense of time and tune, than Cobb. He shuffles rhythms with supreme subtlety. On 24E, snap your fingers to the beat and listen to how many counterbeats Cobb's got going at the same time.
Percussion is something of engineer Sprey's specialty, as well. I can't think of another CD, except possibly another Mapleshade, on which so many bushels of air billow forth from a trapset. The bass (unplugged) sounds naturally woody and plucky. Willis' piano chords waft richly. And the dual trombones -- well, there they are, right in front of you. Lebo is quite a discovery. He plays with astonishing precision, hitting eighth and sixteenth notes without a smidgen of overhang, yet there's no coldness to his tone. He gets a burnished-bronze tone out of the 'bone, "like a dark, soulful French horn," just as the liner says. Hampton has a brasher sound and, when they mix it up the electricity sparkles (though, on Today's Nights, their playing is marred by saturation on the tape). Lovely stuff. -Fred Kaplan
Classically trained in his native Israel before studying in New York with mentor Slide Hampton, trombonist Avi Lebo performs with Hampton, and his angel, pianist Larry Willis, who proposed the recording to Mapleshade after hearing the kid play in N.Y.C. Bassist Steve Novosel and drummer Jimmy Cobb complete the homogeneous team. Eight eclectic arrangements give abundant leeway for everyone to resourcefully stretch out. Great artistry, reminiscent of 1950s Kai & J.J. Quintet. An absorbing listen and promising debut. -Nancy Ann Lee
One of the challenges for a young musician, especially one who wishes to play bop-oriented Jazz, is to find a sound of his or her own. AviLebo has met this challenge head on. Despite studying and playing with Slide Hampton, Lebo has his own distinctive sound: his playing is dark, yet sweet, and slow and thick, evoking for me the image of molasses. As one might expect, Lebo sounds great on the several ballads included here. He lets us bathe in the rich warmth of his horn, and he doesn't forget - as do many players his age - that, especially when he plays a ballad, his solos need to continue to tell the story of the piece. One ballad here is particularly worth mention: his rendition of Willis' To Wisdom The Prize is absolutely fantastic. He plays it slowly and somberly, setting a mood of sad awareness that he maintains throughout. I found it quite easy to lose myself in the mood Lebo and Willis create (they play this as a duet). While nothing else on the disc measures up to this performance, the remainder is still well worth a listen; Hampton and Lebo clearly enjoy playing together, and the rhythm section, smartly led by Willis, are right on the money. This disc not only includes some genuinely good music, but there are touches of pure brilliance as well. -Eric Saidel