If it’s true, as many say, that Jazz improvisation is actually story–telling by another name, tenor saxophonist Dan St. Marseille is an accomplished narrator who recounts a number of fascinating stories on Departure.
None of them, it should be pointed out, is entirely unfamiliar, as comparable versions have been inscribed for a number of years by saxophonists from Stan Getz through Michael Brecker to Joe Lovano. On the other hand, in Jazz, as with snowflakes, no two patterns are ever exactly the same, and even though St. Marseille travels a well–worn path he always finds something fresh and interesting to unearth. The same can be said of pianist Lightsey who shares much of the solo space and puts it to excellent use with a number of sharp and swinging choruses. With Franklin and Burnett, he shapes a rhythm section that’s as sure–handed and dependable as Michael Jordan. As for St. Marseille, he has a deep, full–throated tone, superb technique, and an impressive range that he doesn’t abuse (in other words, no honking, screeching or unendurable rumblings). In these respects, he reminds me of another outstanding young tenor player, Eric Alexander, whose upward course I’ve charted over the past several years. When it comes to story–telling, however, St. Marseille uses dissimilar punctuation, and one would seldom confuse him with Alexander. He’s at his best on the stronger tracks, which include Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” Tom Harrell’s “Little Dancer” and the lone standard (would that there were more), Ray Noble’s “ The Touch of Your Lips,” and invokes the spirit of Getz for a fiery solo on Jerry Kalaf’s “Reunion Blues.” The rest of the music is quite pleasant, with bonus points for bassist Franklin’s perky bossa, “Little Miss Laurie.” An engaging, well–planned hour of muscular mainstream Jazz.
Track listing: Leila in Blue; Helen; Guapa; Pinocchio; If You Could See Me Now; Little Dancer; Reunion Blues; Little Miss Laurie; The Touch of Your Lips (59:31).
Dan St. Marseille, tenor saxophone; Kirk Lightsey, piano; Henry Franklin, acoustic bass; Carl Burnett, drums; Poncho Sanchez, percussion (on