New York All-Stars
A long-treasured project for Ubuntu boss Martin Hummel, the first All Stars line up featured the veteran and late lamented Harold Mabern on piano. That set was so well received that a follow up was a must, and with Mabern’s health no longer permitting his participation, so top-flight bop specialist and long-time Benny Golson associate Le Donne was invited in, and as Seamus Blake had just moved to Paris it was a short hop for him to cross the channel to London and join proceedings. The music, recorded live at the last of a three-night run at Pizza Express, is the kind of powerful contemporary hard bop that acts like the New York Standards quartet have helped to re-establish as a default, with extended workouts on Naima allowing both tenorists to flex their modern-traditionalist muscles. The temperature remains high thoughout on the long, modal flavoured Encounter; Le Donne switches to organ for a rollicking blues on his own Incazzato that features Blake leaping out of the starting blocks, with his powerfully centered tone in contrast to Alexander’s no less powerful but lighter-voiced personality to create the classic two-tenors dynamic, while the international rhythm team keep things swinging powerfully throughout, and Soderlind contributes a flawless demonstration of that art of bop-to-blues guitar. Vocalist Ian Shaw makes a surprise, typically characterful appearance on Lionel Richie’s Still before we’re back to the post-bop verities with a high-speed modal romp on Second Impressions (reminiscent of the Stanley Turrentine/George Benson pairing on Turrentine’s Impressions album for CTI) and a tribute to Eddie Harris’ classic boogaloo groove on the eponymous closer. A delight for fans of the blowing session and a vibrant document of the kind of impromptu but inspired session that’s the essence of jazz.
Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Seamus Blake, tenor sax; Mike LeDonne, piano; Erik Soderlind, guitar; Aldo Zunino – bass; Bernd Reiter, drums; Ian Shaw, guest vocals.