Active during the birth of be-bop Cecil Payne has been making memorable music for over sixty years. His warmly expressive baritone sound is a regular fixture in Chicago clubs like the Jazz Showcase, the venue where this affable string of dates for Delmark was taped. Payne's reservoir for Delmark is now four records deep and the label continues to champion his still largely formidable talents.
The solid cast of colleagues he enlists for the engagement similarly celebrates his reputation. Often referred to as a 'young lion' Alexander brings a sense of phrasing and improvisatory artistry that are compellingly of his own design even while his chops and general tone are generously steeped in the hard bop tradition. Sharing the frontline he acts both as a stabilizer and trigger to Payne's lead and quite frankly is the real hero of the disc. Rotondi's brass alternates between effusive and reserved expositions matching the mood of each piece concisely, but without taking too many chances. Mabern is widely renowned as an ivory hunter of merit and his friendship with Payne is longstanding. Guiding the rhythm section with a fluid touch and tasteful drive he also steps up on numerous occasions to take solo honors. Webber and Farnsworth play their roles as requisite support team with style and skill, secure in the knowledge that theirs is not to be a soloist's lot.
All save two of the pieces are from Payne's songbook and the band stretches each to a respectable length for expressive blowing. The leader gets off to a rocky start on the title track and "Ding-A-Ling, snagging on several hesitant notes in solos for each piece, but by the time the sextet singles out the standard "You Will Be Mine Tonight things have warmed up considerably. Alexander burns hot from the onset turning in beautifully executed improvisations that fit snugly within in his allotted space. Payne's "Bosco is the disc's centerpiece, a beautiful Latin-tinged blowing vehicle that spreads out for strong solos from each of the principals. The leader isn't as hesitant on this one and his spirited solo statement sounds much more at ease. Mabern's string of choruses run a close tie with Alexander's opening salvo for most memorable moments. "Here's That Rainy Day is Payne's only flute feature of the date and while his lines are more lithe on the lighter instrument he still runs into some trouble in the changes. Mabern picks up the slack quoting from a string of diverse melodies and Webber even moves to the fore for a quick stint in the spotlight.
Payne is quoted in the liners as saying that "there's something about playing with friends where you don't have to worry about wrong notes. It's a philosophy he applies liberally on this date. Certain aspects of his performance could be construed as problematic they must be tempered by the satisfaction that exists in knowing he's still actively plying his trade to the applause of appreciative audiences. As if in affirmation of this Alexander takes the mic on the closing cursory "Theme and puts it all in perspective showing the deference and respect Payne so richly deserves.
Delmark on the web: http://www.delmark.com
Track Listing: Talk/ Chic Boom/ Ding-A-Ling/ You Will Be Mine Tonight/ Bosco/ Here?s That Rainy Day/ Cit Sac/ Theme.
Personnel: Cecil Payne- baritone saxophone, flute; Jim Rotondi- trumpet; Eric Alexander- tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern- piano; John Webber- bass; Joe Farnsworth- drums. Recorded: August 17-19, 2000, Chicago, IL.