When I got a call from Earl and Lee May telling me they were sending the Berman Music Foundation some promo copies of Earl’s first recording with his name stamped on it as bandleader – my premiere thoughts were the same as track #14 – At Last!
Earl May was one of my first “jazz friends” after1 got out of the rock and roll biz six years ago (now back with the Nebraska Rocks Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’m doin’ both) and founded the BMF. Also, my numero uno radio (KZUM 89.3) interview where I marveled at Earl’s vast, past history including long stints with Billy Taylor, Gloria Lynne, and Diz to name a few. All the more reason to rush out and get – “Earl May Quintet’S Live at Shanghai Jazz,” introducing Catherine Russell on Shanghai Jazz out of Madison, New Jersey (Earl states that this is the best jazz club in New Jersey that also serves wonderful Chinese cuisine).
Earl’s deft, left handed bass style is in fabulous form as’ he proves to me, and will you, the listener that no one swings, has such great tone and accompanies singers with such aplomb as Mr. May.
The band’s tight, featuring vocalist Catherine Russell whose lovely voice grows on you with each cut. Drummer Eddie Locke goes back with Earl a long way, and it shows. Pianist Larry Ham and David Glasser on sax along with percussionist Joel Hirsch all do a fine job. Still, in my opinion – Earl’s bass work is the real standout and if he wanted to could play with any top-tiered players of any age and come out on top – he’s that good.
Yes Earl, you’re the man.
Fave tunes are “Laughing on the Outside” – a beautiful tearjerker showcasing Ms. Russell; a rousing arrangement of “A Night in Tunisia;” “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Blues for Boz” showing off excellent piano and sax chops. In all – a most enjoyable musical adventure with a well-chosen setlist.
Always the dependable sideman – Earl May solidly steps out as a leader on live at Shanghai Jazz. Get it!!!