By: Geno Thackara, All About Jazz

Nick Hetko/Rich Syracuse/Jeff “Siege” Siegel
When You Were Here
ARC -Artists Recording Collective
2019 When she was here, the late “First Lady of Jazz” Lee Shaw left a mark on the lives of many others from the bandstand and (perhaps) even more others in the classroom. Her influence makes a central and appropriately upbeat theme for When You Were ThereRich Syracuse and Jeff “Siege” Seigel served as Shaw’s rhythm section for a good dozen years, while her mentoring taught Nick Hetko a fine lesson or two about developing a voice at the piano. This unassumingly smart session shows how much she’s missed, but fittingly focuses more on her spirit, charm and swing.

Hetko’s “Captain of a Sinking Ship” is much more upbeat than the title suggests, for instance, rolling and swelling to a warm finish. The Shaw-penned title track takes a bittersweet turn with mood shadings aplenty; a happy romp through Oscar Peterson‘s “Oscar’s Boogie” is topped off with some spontaneous laughter before the tape stops rolling (a nice touch). Propelled by Siegel’s characteristic snappy rhythms and steered by Hetko and Syracuse’s sharp melodic rapport, it’s a fine tribute full of playfulness and generosity.

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