Friday, April 18, 2008

Eric Alexander Quartet - Prime Time (High Note, 2008)

Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander is one of the most effective torch-bearers of the modern hard bop flame. Much like the legendary Dexter Gordon, Alexander possesses a virile, masculine tone that hints at swagger but never descends into self-parody. In some respects, he is a man out of time, as his dark mahogany tone would have made him an icon during the glory days of bop in the 1950's. Regardless, this is a solid and classy performance of mainstream jazz , recorded live in concert with David Hazeltine on piano; John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. There's no messing about here, the band cuts right to the chase with a program of bop, ballads and blues. The final two tracks of the CD were the highlights for me, "We All Love Eddie Harris" is a soulful and toe-tapping tribute to the unjustly ignored tenorman, and "Nemesis" is a steaming and intense performance, hinting the exploratory bop based music performed by Jackie McLean and Sam Rivers during the early 1960's. The DVD included in this package features a similar lineup and playlist, although apparently from a different performance than the CD. It's a well produced video with a lengthy live set and some interesting interview snippets. Overall this is a well done and generous package, sure to delight fans of modern mainstream jazz.

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