Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eric Alexander's "Revival" Burns It's Way Into Your Consciousness

Artist: Eric Alexander

CD:Revival of the Fittest (HCD 7502)

Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander has a prolific body of work starting with his debut album “New York Calling “ released in 1992.With his latest release “ Revival of the Fittest”, Mr. Alexander has created a memorable homage to one of his major influences, the under appreciated George Coleman, whose composition “Revival” is the highlight of the album.

Mr. Alexander’s pure, burnished tone and lyrical playing is seen by some as a throwback. It is steeped in the tradition of the hard bop players who he has chosen to use as a source for inspiration. “Revival” is one of those songs that you can’t seem to get out of your head. On a recent drive home from a disappointing Ravi Coltrane concert I was listening to WBGO and was struck by the way the tune, which I had previewed before, just grabbed my attention. It is no wonder this catchy song is getting airplay. The twists and turns of the melody are exquisitely executed with a creative wellspring of ideas and Mr. Alexander’s tone is warm and mellow while retaining a sense of drive and joy that is infectious. Joe Farnsworth driving, syncopated drums keep this memorable tune in high gear.

Mr. Alexander’s innate ability to bring emotionally charged feelings into exquisitely crafted, elegantly executed passages sets him apart. On the straightly played “Blues for Phineas” he conjures up images of the great masters of this medium- the Mobley’s, the Turrentine’s, the Newman’s. He plays the blues with a refreshing respect, no gimmicks and little mimicry.

On the Ivan Lins ballad “The Island” Mr. Alexander’s lush tone is especially moving as he plays the song’s sensuous melody with little embellishment. He blazes his own understated path delivering passages that are just so tastefully done they make you stand up and listen. Pianist Mabern, seemingly inspired by the Alexander solo, touches on a plethora of styles during his creative solo.

On Michel Legrand composition “ You Must Believe In Spring” Mr. Alexander seems completely at home as drummer Joe Farnsworth sets the tempo with a quick paced Latin beat. Mr. Alexander takes this cue to demonstrate his formidable ability to string together rapidly delivered crescendos of notes that all seem to lead in unified direction to a satisfying conclusion.

With the release of Revival of the Fittest, Eric Alexander has provided a rewarding musical offering. My guess is once you put “Revival” on your cd player or I pod’s rotation you may find it stays there longer than you might have thought.

CD: Revival of the Fittest (HCD-7205)

Musicians: Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone); Harold Mabern (piano); Nat Reeves (bass); Joe Farnsworth (drums).

Recorded: Recorded April 14 & April 28, 2009 Van Gelder Studios, New Jersey

Track listing: Revival; My Grown Up Christmas; The Island; Too Late Fall Back Baby; Love-Wise; Blues for Phineas; You Must Believe in Spring; Yasashiku (Gently). Tracks in bold are favorites

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