by Rick Anderson
Oh my gosh, this album is so much fun. Here’s an example of what I mean: it opens with “Cool Mint,” a tune that, frankly, struck me at first as maybe just a bit saccharine. Shanker’s alto and Daisuke Abe’s guitar play the head in tandem, partly in unison and partly in harmony, over a relentlessly chugging rhythm and the whole thing sounds a bit like the theme music from a 1970s sitcom. And then comes the second tune, the aptly titled “Prestissimo.” This one is pure, lickety-split bebop, with a head that could have been written by Dizzy Gillespie and a quintet arrangement that harks back to the salad days of Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Charlie Christian. The rest of the album is split between Shanker originals and standards, including some gorgeous ballads (at times featuring either uncredited or maybe synthesized strings) and a brilliant, angular arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud.” The title track closes the album in a lovely, lyrical mode. Recommended to all jazz collections.