Guitarist Ed Cherry has been playing professionally since the early ’70s, as a sideman to musicians such as Tim Hardin, Jimmy McGriff, Henry Threadgill andJimmy Smith. Most famously, he spent over fifteen years in Dizzy Gillespie’s band, remaining with the group until the trumpeter’s death in 1993. Perhaps because of his busy career as a sideman his discography as a leader is small, with just three albums before It’s All Good, the most recent being The Spirit Speaks (Justin Time Records, 2001). Eleven years on from his previous CD, It’s All Good is a very welcome reminder of his talents.
It’s All Good is a straight-ahead guitar trio album, with Pat Bianchi on organ and Byron Landham on drums. Cherry doesn’t mess around with the format, just uses it to put together some beautifully-crafted tunes. He has a pure, warm, guitar sound and plays with a refreshing economy and spaciousness. Landham—who’s worked with Joey DeFrancesco,Lee Ritenour and Shirley Scott—is a fine choice as drummer, his lightly swinging playing adding movement as well as holding down the rhythm. Bianchi can be a demonstrative soloist, punching out flurries of notes on “Christo Redentor” or Cherry’s own “Something For Charlie,” but he’s most impressive when his rich chordal playing gives depth and texture to the group’s sound.
The trio’s style is cool and subtle, with an unhurried swing and the ability to develop some killer grooves. It’s right at the heart of Don Raye and Gene De Paul’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood.” It’s also central to the trio’s version of Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne,” which gets a relaxed, even louche, arrangement with great loose limbed percussion from Landham and a laid-back, country vibe from Cherry. Wayne Shorter’s “Edda” and Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” are faster, but still sound hip—Landham lifts the pace effortlessly and Cherry and Bianchi happily follow his lead.
The guitar, organ, drums combo has a long and proud history in jazz. Whatever the reasons for its longevity, the lineup works and in the right hands it delivers some great sounds. It’s All Good carries on the tradition on fine style.