Review by Brad Walseth
You'll want to dig into this tasty collection ("Diggin' In") from The Matt Young Group, which features some of the finest young jazz musicians in Chicago. The album starts off with 4 studio tracks, played well and recorded a bit darkly, as if to simulate a nightclub atmosphere. "Remembering Dexter" is a strong original that comes out swinging hard, with drummer Tim Daisy and bassist/leader Matt Young providing a solid low end for pianist Rob Block and tenor saxophonist Rob Denty to solo over. Denty evokes the playing of the late great Dexter (Gordon, not TV's serial killer) with his sweet lines and Young adds a nice solo.
Jobim/Gilbert's bossa classic "If You Never Come to Me" comes up next and features the delightful vocals of Sarah Ferguson. I haven't heard of Ferguson before, but her singing is an absolute treat and I look forward to catching more from her as she continues her career. Block does some nice work here and is one of the most underrated pianists in town (he can often be seen doubling on keyboards and guitar).
"The One to Break My Heart" is another original, this time by Young and Ferguson, and it is an instant classic. This is a beautiful ballad, heightened again by Ferguson's impressive lilting delivery, Block's shimmering riffs and Denty's searching melodic solo that recalls Getz' lines of longing and regret.
The final studio track, Bernice Petkere's "Lullaby of the Leaves," is given a solidly swinging straightforward instrumental treatment that rewards the listener with exceptional solos by Denty and Block. Young's bass solo here is bluesy and powerful with a touch of Mingus.
Another original co-written by Ferguson and Young, "Goodbye To You and Me" is offered here, recorded live, and shows the songwriters to be talented and well schooled in the standard songbook. It is nice to hear young songwriters writing so well in this traditional vein. Ferguson shines again, the energetic Matt Nelson replaces Block on the live tracks, and first-rate guitarist Andy Brown replaces Denty, adding some Grant Green-inspired work over this enjoyable waltzing number.
Oscar Pettiford's "Tricrotism" is an inspired choice - a successful duet between Young and Brown on one of Pettiford's most beloved and challenging compositions. And the album ends with a high-stepping version of "Too Close for Comfort." Brown shows some wonderful abilities as a traditional jazz player, and Nelson proves again why he is so much in demand with his spirited keyboard work. Finally, bassist Young plays a full-toned solo, an appropriate ending to an enjoyable recording from some fine young Chicago musicians.