• Jonathan Widran

MANNY KELLOUGH and FRIENDS, Speaking of Jazz (East to West Coast)

Renowned drummer for late greats from the worlds of pop/R&B (Billy Preston, Ray Charles, Barry White) and jazz (Carmen McRae, Freddie Hubbard) before leading his own rousing ensemble over the last two decades, Manny Kellough could have created a versatile, powerhouse recording anytime over the years.

Waiting till the time was right to release his highly anticipated debut Speaking of Jazz (East to West Coast) allowed him the advantage of having friends on both coasts to invite in separate sessions to a party filled with incredible swing, solos and scat by friends, as the collection’s title promises, on both coasts.


Kellough’s promo materials include the phrases “music that makes audiences feel good” and “music that will make the listener smile.” He and his exuberant, happily grooving partying pals do this over eight East Coast and three West Coast tracks) – several times quite literally, as the East Coasters – including pianist William Knowles, bassist West “Suga” Biles, altoist Antonio Parker and trumpet/flugelhorn player Michael Thomas – engage in a lively, snazzy romp through “Smile” (featuring the soulful vocals of Julian Hipkins) and a hipster, percussive, brass driven Kellough-Knowles original called “Happy Swing in ‘F’ that showcases the sparkling improv magic of Knowles and Parker.


Aside from uniformly stellar performances and the soulful vocals of Azure McCall and, recording for the first time, Kellough’s daughter Ashley (on a sassy, lighthearted stroll through “When I Fall in Love,” the real joys and charms of the set come from the colorful arrangements of material capturing the stylistic vibe of numerous facets of the drummer’s career – from the snappy, sax-fired punch of Preston’s “Nothing From Nothing” and the lyrical, hypnotic Woody Shaw waltz “Katrina Ballerina (Cute and Pretty Ballerina”) through the closing West Coast number, a smoky strut through Gershwin’s “Foggy Day.”