To my siblings and me, jazz will forever be known as "Boompa music" after my grandfather who played this music continuously in his Wabash home. So it was with more nostalgia than expertise that I approached Columbia Street Jazz, the latest offering from Class Act Trio, or rather with the addition of woodwind guru Dick Brown, Class Act Quartet. The songs on the album are meant to be reminiscent of what one could hear in the 40s and 50s at Murph's Bar on Harrison Street in downtown Fort Wayne. Class Act Quartet should know because Tom Archer, piano, and Dick Brown both played in Murph's Bar during those years, not to mention the many other night clubs that were once common in the downtown area.
These four talented musicians might be considered old hats by some but their decades of experience are clearly evident in the quality of each track. Indeed the entire album, from the tasteful artwork to the extensive liner notes to the excellent recording/production at Tempel Recording Studios, is an example of how a local CD should be done. As is the case with most jazz albums, proper tribute is paid to the classic composers who made jazz what it is: Mancini, Rogers and Hart, Lane, and Ellington all receive homage. And what would a jazz album be without solos? Never fear for Class Act Quartet will not disappoint. There's the magic bass fingers of Clarence Boykins on "Just Squeeze Me" (that would be upright bass for all you Les Claypool fans) and Mike Shively's big drum solo in the jazz staple "Cute." Popular since it's inception in 1955, Errol Garner's "Misty" is the subject of some melancholy tenor sax and later some well-executed vibes. "You Are Too Beautiful" is a solo piano piece, similar to what you would hear Archer play at Hall's Guesthouse and other solo gigs around town. A nice surprise is the swinging "Tom's Tune", an original number from the 1950s when Tom Archer was part of "The Dick Brown Quartet." From gentle swing to bossa nova to some really moving grooves, this CD is a testament to four musicians at the top of their craft who love their music.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 2001.