For The Set-Up, the sophomore album from instrumental trio the City Champs, the, well, set-up is this: Come for the Latin jazz deconstruction of the theme from Mad Men (aka Aceyalone’s “A Beautiful Mine”), stay for the sharp, playful jazz, R&B and soul. After all, there are plenty of worse ways to lure new listeners into the fold. Those who hear what guitarist Joe Restivo, Hammond organist Al Gamble and drummer George Sluppick (as well as a handful of ace Memphis sidemen) have to offer will not be disappointed. From the ‘60s spy movie cool of the opening title track and the liquid guitar runs of “Drippy” to the transition from gently swinging to bright ‘n’ punchy on “Crump St.”, one hears the City Champs play off each other, pushing each other to greater heights. As for “A Beautiful Mine”? Despite the smooth vibe, it keeps enough of the tune’s requisite tension and release to consider the experiment a success. Picture Don Draper with a pencil mustache tumbling in a guayabera and a Panama hat and you’re halfway there.
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