REVIEW by Willard Manus

Exquisite is the word that best describes the musicianship on LANDS END, the new CD by vibraphonist Charlie Shoemaker and pals. Shoemaker's virtuosity shines through on all eleven cuts, thanks to his clean, rich sound and innate love of harmony. That he can also swing is another bonus, plus the fact that his equally-gifted collaborators (Bruce Forman on guitar and Bob Maize on bass) are completely in synch with him.

To hear them on "It Happened in Monterey," the old Frank Sinatra ballad," is a case in point. Each man blends with the other so perfectly that they sometimes sound like one, only to step up when it's time to solo and make strong personal statements.

On another cut, "Alone," Shoemaker reduces the tune to its starkest, most simple line but puts so much soul and beauty into his playing that it becomes a rich and deeply moving thing to hear.

Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson joins the trio on several occasions,
especially the uptempo ones that call for lightning fast, sophisticated changes. "He's very creative," says Shoemaker in the liner notes. "He's
influenced by some of the same people that I am and he's put it together
in a very personal way. You know it's him."

The people in question are the likes of Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie,
Percy Heath, John Lewis and Paul Chambers. There are tributes to them on
LANDS END (on tunes such as "Two Bass Hit" and "Contour") that pay
homage but never imitate. Shoemaker is too original and creative for that, especially in light of his musical goal, which is to emphasize free playing within a formal structure.

"I've felt for years that being on the West Coast seems to make us second class in the eyes of the jazz media, but I know we play as well as anyone," Shoemaker said. "These guys are some of the greatest in the country, they're all my friends, and I'm proud they're on the album."

Bassist Luther Hughes and drummer Paul Kreibich flesh out the roster on
several cuts. As Shoemaker asserts, their playing is tasteful and rich with feeling. This is music that not only communicates instantly but makes you realize it couldn't be played any better.

(Chase Music Group, 800-724-2730,