October 2006

Sheryl Bailey 3 - Live @ the Fat Cat
Pure Music Records 21404
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Live @ the Fat Cat is jazz guitarist Sheryl Bailey’s third disc with organist Gary Versace and drummer Ian Froman, and it’s her first live recording. Bailey has been a commanding player since her first disc, Little Misunderstood, but her knowledge, inventiveness, and confidence grow with each new release. She is a guitarist of stunning technical ability, but she never sacrifices musical clarity or feeling for mere flash. She also tries new things to expand her tonal palette, such as the volume swells on "The Wishing Well." Her harmonic sophistication and love of melody have helped her develop into a jazz composer of the first order.

The new disc catches this great trio in performance at a New York club, and all three musicians are obviously energized by playing in front of an appreciative audience. Versace proves, as he did on his previous two discs with Bailey, that he is committed to finding new things to say on the Hammond B3. He avoids soul jazz clichés, both as a soloist and accompanist, where he shows an unusually subtle hand. Froman is an exceptionally musical drummer, finely tuned to the other two players and responsive to their needs, and his own solos are beautifully constructed.

For an independent release, Live @ the Fat Cat is a clean, detailed recording, although I might have wished for a little more club ambiance. No matter -- this disc proves again that Sheryl Bailey is one of the most gifted and exciting jazz guitarists on the scene.