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MUSIC REVIEW

Jazz trumpeter Souza pays tribute to the Hub of his heart

"Meet Me in the City" is the name of Johnny Souza's new CD. On Thursday night at Ryles, the Boston trumpeter/vocalist met a roomful of fans, friends, and family in the Inman Square club for an enjoyable, unashamedly boosterish celebration of the city that inspired it.

Souza launched his opening set with the Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe staple "On the Street Where You Live," backed by his usual collaborators, the Ray Santisi Trio. He sang and scatted in his pleasant tenor, then blew a lovely muted trumpet solo that was reminiscent of Miles Davis's "Birth of the Cool" days.

Santisi and Barry Smith followed with piano and bass solos, respectively, and drummer Gene Roma propelled everyone along with his brushes.

A Souza original, "Big Dig Blues," came next and proved a high point of the set. Guest alto saxophonist Greg Abate joined Souza for a run-through of the tune's Horace Silver-ish hard bop theme, which led to a dazzling unmuted solo by Souza.

Less successful was the group's take on Davis's "All Blues," with Oscar Brown Jr.'s trite added lyrics and superfluous scatting by Souza. Smith was granted a pair of competent but not particularly inspired bass solos, and Santisi followed the first of them with an overly chipper solo on piano.

Abate breathed a little fire and bluesy lyricism into the piece with his alto. But what was the song's connection to Boston? (A reference to the perennial disappointments endured by Red Sox fanatics?)

Two more Souza originals followed, their Boston connections spelled out loud and clear in their titles. "Back Bay Bossa" featured Abate and Souza switching to flute and fluegelhorn. "Boston (Hub of My Heart)" included a swinging trumpet solo by the leader's son, guest soloist Johnny Souza III. The tune's lyrics, built around the city's touristy selling points, delighted the partisan crowd despite their corniness. ("Please visit our harbor, but don't ask for tea./I'd suggest you order the lobster and a bowl of chowder just for me!")

Horace Silver's familiar "Song for My Father" was up next, with Souza-penned lyrics sung as a duet with his daughter, Leah Souza. Her voice overpowered her dad's, and the lyrics were sometimes hard to decipher. But the song's sweet story line, when discernible, made this revisiting of a jazz classic work nicely.

All told, it was a fun night made all the better for this crowd by the sight of the Red Sox polishing off Anaheim on the television set over the bar.

Johnny Souza
At: Ryles, first set, Thursday night

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