Monday, February 23, 2015

Charles McPherson - The Journey (Capri Records, 2015)

Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson was one of the many great jazz musicians to come out of Detroit in the 1950’s, beginning an active solo recording career in the 1960’s in addition to taking advantage of high profile sideman opportunities. He is known as one of the foremost bebop inspired saxophonists on the modern scene and is still blowing mightily on this record, in the company of Keith Oxman on tenor saxophone, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums. “The Decathexis from Youth (For Cole)” kicks things off in a splendid fashion with a jaunty, swaggering opening laying the groundwork for a jubilant ripe alto saxophone solo. Full sounding piano along with bass and drums take a propulsive interlude before the saxophones return to harmonize and conclude a rousing opener. Bop and ballads are the order of the day and the fast paced version of “Spring Is Here” charges ahead mightily with the bright sounding and locked in rhythm section backing the horns along with soloing and occasionally boiling up to push the saxophones ever forward. McPherson is also an excellent and patient ballad player, as evidenced with “Manhattan Nocturne” where the saxes weave together using the piano, bass and drums team to provide subtle shading. The leader takes a very sweet sounding solo followed by a nice bass interlude. “The Journey” opens the music back up again as the twin saxophone attack bobs and weaves around the opening riff before the tenor sax races to the front for the leading solo. McPherson takes the next solo, rooted in bebop but stretching to incorporate the length and breadth of his horn. The album is rounded out by two well played uptempo performances, “Tami’s Tune” which features an another excellent Walker solo, and the Bud Powell tribute “Bud Like” that is a blasting, twisting and complex bebop tune with a fantastic McPherson solo which references Charlie Parker, Eric Dolphy and his own brilliant playing. The round robin format of solos leads to a strong tenor saxophone feature, before appropriately enough, Stephens’ piano takes center stage, followed by a brief drum solo, all of which crackle with energy. This is mainstream jazz immaculately played and lead by a master musicians who has spent his life in the musical trenches and will hopefully get some long overdue attention with this fine album. The Journey -

Send comments to Tim.