Wednesday, October 03, 2018

New York All-Stars - Burnin' In London (Ubuntu Records, 2018)

New York All-Stars are a seriously talented mainstream jazz group featuring Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Harold Mabern on piano, Darryl Hall on bass and Bernd Reiter on drums. Recorded at the The Pizza Express in London, the music is mostly fast (and sometimes furious) but never leaves its grounding in the traditional hard bop vocabulary. "Almost Like Falling in Love" begins the album at a tight medium up tempo, the band is locked in with the beginning thematic statement that Alexander accents with some raw peals amidst his quicksilver soloing. The rhythm section takes a turn, steering though their segment like a luxury car, as Mabern adds some ripples to the mix, but nothing can shake this crew, then a crashing drum break leads to an interesting trading of phrases between the drummer and the resto of the band. They really dig in on "I Could Have Danced All Night," strutting through the melody and then surging into some breakneck improvisations, Alexander leading the way, cruising through an impressive and mighty fast saxophone feature, with the rhythm section bounding along beside him as they romp through the possibilities presented by the tune. The piano bass and drums unit keep the pressure on playing at a mighty clip, leading to a savage drum solo that is very exciting. Alexander's "Nightlife in Tokyo" has a Mabern solo opening that eventually sets the full rhythm team to a percolating simmer, and the saxophonist joins in with some tough and gritty playing over Mabern's towering piano chords. The music is a lengthy episodic improvisation, incorporating a crystalline piano solo buoyed by tight bass and drums and making space for a small but well earned bass feature. The group finally drops down into ballad territory on "It's Magic" which opens up more space for the piano to be played in a sensitive and thoughtful manner accompanied by brushes and soft tenor saxophone, using openness and restraint to their advantage. Bright sounding piano and saxophone are the focus of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" where the pace is quick, but not frantic and Mabern stokes the fire with muscular piano comping along with crisp bass and drums bringing things us to speed. Alexander again salts his solo with harsh bleats keeping everyone on their toes. Sparkling piano playing and the swapping of phrases with the drummer ease the tune out. The group finishes with the timeless standard "Summertime," anchored by storming piano, bass and drums and soaring saxophone feature to send the audience off with happy memories of a powerful night of music. Burnin' In London - amazon.com

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