It will always be appealing to hear a musician develop, whether on record or otherwise, and Vincent Herring's association with HighNote has easily been the most productive of his career, in terms of documenting his growth as an artist. Where once he perhaps owed a debt of allegiance to the work of Cannonball Adderley, he now has the sound of a musician who has come into his own. And while this whole deal might not amount to anything new, such development is symptomatic of more robust values than those that contribute to the primacy of image over substance.
On the likes of Benny Golson's "Stable Mates," this is evident in Herring's very articulation. Where once he might have opted for speed, now his approach is more considered, perhaps a product of the aging process and the very experiences that go with it.
This maturity can manifest itself in a number of ways, and the manner in which the quartet handles Lennon and McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" is one of them. On this sample from a songbook that for whatever reason might not be viewed with the same gravity as that of, say, Cole Porter, pianist Danny Grissett turns in what might just be his most compelling solo of the date.
Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, who performs on half the material, is the ideal choice for this group, not least because he sounds as though he's reached a similar stage in his musical development. There is a trace of Blue Mitchell in his work, albeit tempered by an urbane feel that is entirely his own. On drummer Joris Dudli's "Thoughts," the individuality of his muted playing is an ideal foil to Herring's soprano saxophone.
Pelt also plays on "The Song Is Ended," where the practical effect of Grissett's arrangement is to take the song to places it might not previously have occupied. Modest innovation within premeditated takes like this might well be a hallmark of this group. And when their overall performance is of such a high calibre, issues like more significant innovation, for its own sake or otherwise, are barely relevant.
Personnel: Vincent Herring: alto, and soprano saxophones: Danny Grissett: piano; Essiet Essiet: bass;
Joris Dudli: drums; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (3,6,7,8).