George Cables, I’m All Smiles (High Note)
When George Cables was the pianist in the late saxophonist Art Pepper’s quartet, Pepper gave him a nickname that has endured: “Mr. Beautiful.” Anyone coming to Cables for the first time by way of this superb trio album will have no difficulty understanding what inspired Pepper’s choice of words. Whether in his unaccompanied version of Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood,” or waltzing through the title tune, Cables is at the top of his optimistic game. He is as positive and resourceful as ever, managing to maintain his sunny musical disposition despite having been through a seige of medical setbacks that included the amputation of one of his legs above the knee. Essiet Essiet is the gifted bassist in the trio. His tone and note choices have put him in consistent demand in New York jazz circles. Essiet often teams with drummer Victor Lewis, and they work together beautifully in this collaboration with Cables, the three exploring tunes that will be unfamiliar to many listeners and others that have been neglected or too seldom revived. Among the latter are Jaco Pastorius’s “Three Views Of A Secret” and Freddie Hubbard’s “Thermo.” On the other hand, if you think that “Besame Mucho” has been overdone, the unrestrained joy of Cables’ version may change your mind.