RON KEARNS "Live at Montpelier" Foxhaven

Friday, February 17, 2006; Page WE08 Washington Post

ALTHOUGH RECORDED in a different suburban Maryland location, "Live at Montpelier" brings to mind the sort of music that jazz fans frequently encounter at the annual East Coast Jazz Festival in Rockville, which runs through Monday at the Doubletree Hotel. The mood is relaxed, the tunes are mostly standards and the unfussy arrangements generously showcase fine local talent.

Alto saxophonist Ron Kearns is heard in a cozy setting here, playing alongside new recruits and longtime collaborators. (Among the latter is the recently deceased drummer Mike Smith, who will be saluted at this year's festival.) The emphasis placed on pop standards pays off nicely, especially during a leisurely, lyrical and occasionally playful arrangement of "I'll Remember April." It's one of several opportunities for Kearns, trombonist John Jensen, pianist Larry Brown, bassist Kent Miller and guest vibist Tim Collins to display their engaging way with an indelible melody. The more soulful aspects of the band's repertoire are evident on Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," with its braided horn lines and Latin propulsion, and the Silver-tinted "Spice and Sugar," a Kearns original distinguished by a string of colorful solos.

-- Mike Joyce