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Don Rice takes the standards to a high level By Mary Kunz Goldman NEWS CRITIC A die-hard Jazz at the Albright-Knox regular said that by his estimate, Sunday's was  the biggest crowd this summer at the Buffalo News-sponsored free jazz festival. And why not?  It was a perfect day — breezy and cool, with clouds here and there. And we had  saxophonist Don Rice and the Bobby Jones Trio. If you were out of town and wandered into a club and heard this combo, you would feel lucky and come home brag­ging to your friends.  They are that good Don Rice has a laid-back, whispery sound — I want to say  West Coast, but it is more soul­ful than that I imagine he takes  his cues from the great saxo­phonist Lester Young, and those  who followed Lester Young, maybe Zoot Sims. Some­one else in  the crowd brought upStanGetz. Anyway, we are talking a tenor sax style that is low and  slow and, even in uptempo numbers, full of soul and  nos­talgia. There was never a dull moment in the two sets, as  Rice took us through standard after standard, with a few bop  num­bers thrown in. Some things were, glorious­ly, just what you hoped for.  A ballad medley began with "These Foolish Things" — see, I told  you he was thinking of Les­ter Young. It continued with "Don't  Blame Me" and Don't Take Your Love From Me." Rice's breathy  tone — sometimes, thrillingly, barely audible— seemed to make  the after­noon stand still.  At the same time, Rice liked to surprise you. He did  some ballads uptempo. "Yesterdays" fared well that way. He  also did a bittersweet "East of the Sun (and West of the  Moon)," and 'There Is No Greater Love" (with Bobby Jones contributing a fine, bluesy solo). And talk about a surprise. 'We want to be the first people to wish you Merry Christmas  and Happy Holidays," Rice told us. The group proceeded to play "The Christmas Song." So  cool— and cooling. "Like Someone in Love" was lovely. A brisk “Tenor Madness" featured a lightning-quick  solo by bassist Jim Colemon. "St. Thomas," a tune that belongs to the drummer, warranted a  crisp solo from drummer Dan­ny Hull This is a traditional Jazz at the Albright-Knox num­ber. I  was thinking of how often I have enjoyed it as I lay kicked back, baking in the sun. We should  demand that all partici­pants play it  A very talented 15-year-old pianist, Harry Brazier, also took a turn at the keyboard. He  had a sure touch and a fine energy about him. Bobby Jones brought out the bluesy underpinnings of "Cen­terpiece." Which reminds me: I realize we are dealing with outdoor re­alities, but I found myself  wish­ing for an acoustic piano. The electric piano can just sound so hokey, and does not do  justice either to the pianists' talents or to Rice's subtleties. Jones likes electronics — I  thought I could hear him playing with the sound — but oh, to hear this group with more  pristine acous­tics. Well, that is high praise.  As it is, I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. It was a wonderful afternoon.  The Sunday coming up brings the Buffalo State Re­union Big Band. They should be  great, but they've got a tough act to follow. e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com   Concert Review Don Rice & His Mellow Tenor Sax Part of the Jazz at the Albright-Knox free concert series. Sunday afternoon on Shakespeare  Hill, Delaware Park.  
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