Sunday, August 27, 2017

Harold Mabern - To Love and Be Loved (Smoke Sessions, 2017)

Veteran pianist Harold Mabern has found his sweet spot, playing with familiar and sympathetic colleagues and recording music that fits snugly within his hard bop and soul jazz comfort zone. Accompanying him on this album are Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Cobb on drums, Nat Reeves on bass, with guest spots for Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and Cyro Baptista on percussion. The music they play is energetic and lyrical, like on Lee Morgan's composition "The Gigolo" with Mabern playing insistent chords, behind the horns which meld into one and give the music the feeling of a classic Blue Note session from the days of yore. Cobb sets a subtle groove and Hendrix breaks out for an impressive solo of punchy well articulated brass. Alexander solos with steely resolve as the rhythm section churns beneath him, playing with a strident and focused precision. Mabern's own feature is punctuated by ripples of notes and a bouncing, buoyant feel, before leading the group back to a fine concluding statement. "Inner Glimpse" ups the tempo further with the front line of saxophone and trumpet carving a path for the leader to weave through with a spritely and fast paced solo bracket by excellent bass and drums. The horns trade spitfire solos, clearly in their element, making for a very exciting ride, building scalding uptempo statements that are potent and powerful, before stepping aside for an formidable drum feature and then a crisp reprise of the original theme. "The Iron Man" has a bouncy opening for the rhythm trio, unfolding to a section of tenor saxophone making for a fine medium-up performance with plenty of room for the players to stretch out, particularly Jimmy Cobb. The iconic Miles Davis song "So What" is an interesting choice, considering that Cobb was the drummer on the original recording. They take the tune a little faster, stating the memorable theme and then breaking out into a lengthy tenor saxophone solo filled with twists and turns. Hendrix takes a fine solo section for himself, playing in an impressive manner that reaches high into the trumpet's range. This was a very well played mainstream jazz album, the band makes accessible music that a wide range of music lovers would find enjoyable. To Love and Be Loved -

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