Live concert recordings have always been a particularly effective medium for jazz, encouraging extended improvisation that can often be inhibited in the studio. When the cohesive working unit being recorded is Eric Person's Meta-Four, their performance can benefit from an enthusiastic audience. Such is the case with this enjoyable disc recorded last year at the seventh annual Big Sur Jazz Festival.
Person's broad range of experience with drummers Chico Hamilton, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Ronnie Burrage, the big bands of John Hicks, David Murray and McCoy Tyner and with Dave Holland's quintet and the World Saxophone Quartet have contributed greatly to his mature alto and soprano sound and skills as an arranger and composer. Here he presents an impressive program of originals, ably assisted by his longtime pianist partner John Esposito and more recent Meta-Four members bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Peter O'Brien.
The opening Spanish-tinged “Magenta,” written when he was only 18, recorded here for the first time, is an exciting outing featuring the leader's soprano and Esposito's Tyner-inspired piano. “Tiger In The Maze,” first recorded on 1992’s Arrival showcases the leader's alto, Bartzish in its broad biting tone, but Braxtonian in its almost mathematical precision. “Special Someone”, previously recorded on 1999's Extra Pressure is a beautiful ballad, built on an oriental motif. Here Person's soprano compositional style are reminiscent of Wayne Shorter. “Reach!” is a funky number featuring Davis' electric bass underneath the leader's soulful Kenny Garrett-like alto.
The second half of the set features reprises of two compositions, “Survival Instincts” and “Issues, Yours Not Mine,” from Person's More Tales To Tell (which featured bass clarinet bassoon, flute and guitar); and a spirited new tune, “I'll Be Fine.” Person is more than fine; he is a major talent of his generation. Although he's been somewhat overlooked by the critical establishment, if he continues to produce work of the quality exhibited here, that will soon be remedied.