Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bennie Wallace - Disorder at the Border (Enja/Justin Time, 2007)

In the liner notes to this CD it is written that tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace was weary of falling into what he called the "Coltrane Trap" in the mid-1970's when he was an up and coming jazz musician. To avoid the all-encompassing pull of John Coltrane's influence, Wallace studied the music of the pre-bob masters, like Ben Webster, Don Byas and especially the focus of this album, Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins wrote the ur-text for tenor saxophone, changing it from a novelty instrument into the instrument most widely associated with jazz. Wallace celebrated Hawkins' centenary in 2004 with a series of live performances of his music, from which this disc is drawn. There's a crack mini big band here with the likes of Jesse Davis on alto, and Terrell Stafford on trumpet. The hard-swinging music is a mix of Hawkins originals and songs associated with him that were written by others. The disc begins with a charging version of the title-track "Disorder at the Border" with the horns and rhythm riffing hard behind Wallace's soloing. "Body and Soul" has been part of the tenor saxophone canon ever since Hawkins popular and influential 30's waxing, and Wallace responds well to the pressure, crafting a fine improvisation on the well known song. "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" is the very lengthy set ender, with the whole group getting into the spirit of things and Wallace channeling what sounds suspiciously like a famous tenor saxophonist at the midway point. I guess the trap catches up with us all... This is a well performed album, and proved that Hawkins spirit is still very much in evidence amongst today's musicians.

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