REVIEW: Greg Skaff’s “116th & Park”

Photobucket Greg Skaff has released two albums for the Zoho label, and he has returned for his third album with them in the form of 116th & Park.

For this one, he brings back his trio that features Pat Bianchi on the Hammond B-3 and Ralph Peterson Jr. on drums, showing honor to the power of the classic jazz trios. Thelonious Monk’s “Bye-Ya” is sure to make even the diehard Monk fans holler for this one, while Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” shows how well that song still is, years after its creation. Skaff allows the drummer to get some as Peterson is given a moment to shine with a drum solo in “Beehive”. As always, Skaff’s original pieces are great too, including “Tropicalia”, which replaces Bianchi with bassist Paul Nowinski and Peterson with percussionist Refosco, and immediately you will bring yourself to your cherished beach (or “beach in your dreams”) with beverage of choice and perhaps the lover(s) of your choice too. Things immediately go back into the hustle and bustle of the city with the Peterson-original “The Jugular”, and while you may long for the tropical feel of the song before, you know you’ll be able to return again.

116th & Park may be that corner in East Harlem you always wanted to visit with the 95 Park Deli behind you, Duke Ellington Circle and Tito Puente Way a few blocks away and Central Park in its path, or it may be that place that you always wanted to visit but never had the heart or courage to do so. That part of Harlem has been an inspiration for Skaff, and continues to be with this release. As Sheila Elaine Anderson’s liner notes indicate, what Skaff also wanted was to do material that isn’t associated with the guitar. Through him, these songs now are “guitar songs”, and hopefully it is a clue for other musicians and singers of all genres to to step out of their comfort zones and explore the world, even if it is a walk around familiar territory.