Release date: April 2006
Eric Alexander’s seventh outing as leader of a quartet featuring the venerable Harold Mabern on piano finds their project of creating high quality, highly listenable, creative straight ahead jazz still running at full steam.
As Eric Alexander notes in the album’s liner notes, in his saxophone playing he is aiming at ‘a combination of brightness and mellowness, as George Coleman likes to say. It’s an elusive quality, but most of the masters had it…..like Dexter Gordon or Coltrane or George. It’s hard to get though, because achieving that power in your sound can take you right to the edge of having too much of that and no beauty. It’s a difficult balance.’
The result is impressive and the balance that he is seeking is clearly achieved. Harold Mabern provides the ideal partner to bounce this virtuosity off; those blocked out left hand chord patterns really are reminiscent of McCoy Tyner and, on tracks such as “Typhoon 11”, “Open and Shut” or “Little Lucas” (the three Eric Alexander originals) it is possible with only a small leap of the imagination to think that you are hearing the classic Coltrane quartet of the ‘sixties.
Harold Mabern is also credited with suggesting a number of the songs to be given the “standard” treatment; some of them unlikely such as title track “It’s All In the Game” (after hearing this played in concert by Keith Jarrett) and “Bye, Bye, Baby”, a Marilyn Monroe song in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. “Where Is The Love” (a 1972 song by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack), “Where Or When” (a Rogers and Hart song from the musical “Babes In Arms”) and an unusual reading of Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby My Dear” complete the set. Bass (Nat Reeves) and drums (Joe Farnsworth) provide a perfect platform.
Overall, this is a fine album which captures that combination of brightness and mellowness that this fine quartet had been seeking. Recommended.
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