This double-disc set is one of the more bountiful compilations gleaned from Mitch Miller's voluminous Columbia Records catalog. Unfortunately, the contents of 50 All-American Favorites (2004) have been confined to the years 1958 to 1962, during which time Miller's unconventional performance style was on its final descent. Mitch Miller & the Gang consisted of Miller fronting a full choral ensemble of vocalists who sang in unison.
Lean is a New York City-based trio consisting of saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh, bassist Simon Jermyn and drummer Allison Miller. To appreciate what this forward-driving jazz threesome can do, follow the dictates of the trio’s self-titled debut…and lean in. Listen closely. Pay attention. This hour-long album is rich with compositional creation, improvisational imagination and masterful musicianship. Sabbagh is from France but has called NYC home since the early ‘70s. He’s played with Victor Lewis, Bill Stewart, Billy Drummond, and others; and has led or co-led several groups over the years. Jermyn was raised in Ireland and since moving to New York City has been on stage with John Hollenbeck, Tony Malaby, Dan Tepfer, and many more; issued solo records; and is associated with other NYC-area bands.
From Miles Davis' Doo-Bop to albums by Greg Osby and Steve Coleman, much of the "jazz/rap fusion" released has been more hip-hop than jazz – essentially, hip-hop with jazz overtones. Bill Evans, however, has featured rappers in much the way a hard bopper would feature a singer – on "Reality" and the poignant, reggae-influenced "La Di Da," rapper Ahmed Best successfully interacts with an actual, spontaneous, improvisatory band instead of merely pre-recorded tracks. Best's rapping style – a cerebral approach akin to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest instead of more hardcore rappers like Tupac Shakur and Ice-T – is well-suited to this challenging and complex jazz-fusion setting.