Bob Lark, Kelly Sill, Joel Spencer and Mark Colby are among the musical elite in Chicago, a town immersed in jazz ever since a few years after the form emerged. Jim McNeely became a jazz musician in Chicago, left for New York in 1975 and quickly achieved international importance. The phrase Bob Lark & Friends describes the closeness among these five Chicago musicians who have played together for years, sharing principles and convictions about music and life. 'Friends have all things in common,' Plato said. This CD illustrates the point.
Lark recorded Suggestions during one of McNeely's teaching visits to DePaul. He coordinated schedules so that between McNeely's master classes and rehearsals with the school's big bands and combos, they had two days of studio time, one for the quintet tracks, another for the duo.
'I've played with Jim off and on for a long time,' Lark said. 'There's no better accompanist, no one more comfortable for me to play with. He literally wrote the book on accompanying' (The Art of Comping, Advance Music). 'He's played for Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Ted Curson, Phil Woods, and so many other people. And I think he's a very underrated soloist.' Your ears can provide the best analysis of Lark's claim, but I will call your attention to McNeely's stunning solo on A Child is Born, written by his mentor and friend Thad Jones.
Doug Ramsey is the author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond (Parkside Publications). He blogs about jazz and other matters at www.artsjournal.com/rifftides.
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