Vincent Herring and Wallace Roney teamed for several hard bop quintet sessions in the early ‘90s. Two of those Landmark sessions, recorded from 1990 through 1992, are reissued here as a 2-CD set. The alto saxophonist and trumpeter are in fine form; others include pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Ira Coleman, and drummers Carl Allen & Billy Drummond. Herring, who turns 34 next month, has worked with Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Nat Adderley and – more recently – The Mingus Big Band. His alto saxophone sound, which clearly shows the influence of Cannonball Adderley, is a comfortable listen. Herring moves rapidly and easily from one statement to the next, produces a confident full tone, and exhibits a creative spark throughout the session. The leader lists his other primary influences as Bird, Trane, Ornette Coleman, and pianist Wynton Kelly.
The title track, Monk’s "Evidence," features Herring, Roney, and Miller stretching out in a session similar to that of the Art Blakey ensembles; each of them has on-the-job training with the master teacher. Herring, who left college and moved to New York when he was only 19, recorded this – his third session as leader – at age 25. The hard-bop number also includes fours with drummer Allen, who does a splendid job driving the session. Ballads "Never Forget" and "Stars Fell on Alabama" provide quieter moments, while Miller’s "Soul-Leo," Cedar Walton’s "Hindsight, and Kenny Barron’s "Voyage" light the fire.
Mike Nock’s modern mainstream "Dawnbird," (the other title track) brings in Herring’s lithe soprano sax with a powerful percussion accompaniment. Mulgrew Miller’s searing piano solo inspires with enthusiasm and improvisation, creating what is clearly the session’s highlight. Billy Drummond trades fours with the front line on "Toku Do" and Miller’s "August Afternoon." His clear crisp drumstick patterns are a welcome addition. Substituting performers on "The Dark Side of Dewey," "Who’s Kidding Who," and "Dr. Jamie," Herring teams with trumpeter Scott Wendholt, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Carl Allen. As Orrin Keepnews muses in the original liner notes, the 1990s may long be remembered as the decade of the "young lion," but we still reserve the right to opt for good music in spite of marketing references to age or appearances. Recommended.