How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Jake Fryer second recording, In Good Company, finds the British alto saxophonist recording in San Diego with fellow altoist Bud Shank and his rhythm section. Fryer's previous release, On Our Terms (Nuts About Jazz, 2008), was the live debut of the London Bebop Collective; Fryer also leads the Jake Fryer Quartet and is part of the Little Big Band.
With two saxophonists in front, it is not surprising that this turns out to be a blowing session in the main. But pianist Mike Wofford
makes a considerable presence as wellnot only with his rhythmic drive, but also with his melodically inspired interludes.
Shank, who died the day after this recording was completed, leads on all tracks. His tone is occasionally thin and he wavers on the long notesunderstandable, given the circumstances. What is more crucial is that he still manifests enough of the gentle tenderness and the heated phrases that were the hallmarks of his playing.
"Caravan" and "Bopping With Bud" underscore Fryer and Shank's approach, blowing hard and torrid without losing their grip on emotional drive. Shank ups the drive after bassist Bob Magnusson
sets up the head on a slow groove. He jets into the upper register before extrapolating the melody and completing the drive. Confident in his approach and unafraid of challenge, Fryer is no slouch either, as he bends and shapes the tune to add some interesting textures. Both settle into bright tonality as they exchange phrases and then ride out into the open, with focused abandon during their solo spots.
Adept at bebop, Fryer also has considerable charm on ballads. On "Almost Like Being in Love," he lopes across the melody, augmenting it with emphatic dips before letting an oscillating pulse seep in. He gets some fine support from a rhythm section that is well-oiled, but never slick. Wofford is lissome, an articulate diviner of mood and rhythm whose ideas illuminate the song. Here, he characterizes the tune with a delectable sense of direction, his sense of expression central to the nectar of the melody. This is just the right atmosphere for Shank, who is in his element: warm, tender and irresistible. Together they turn this into one of the highlights of this CD.
Fryer has put together all the right ingredients, from the band makeup to track selections that include originals and standards, making In Good Company an eventful outing.
Track Listing: Caravan; Bopping With Bud; Agnieszka; Tip Top and Tickety Boo; Breaking Loose; The Time Lord; Almost Like Being in Love; In Good Company; Speak Low.
Personnel: Jake Fryer: alto saxophone; Bud Shank: alto saxophone; Mike Wofford: piano; Bob Magnusson: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums.