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Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights (2011)

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Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Benjamin Drazen has been on the New York scene for over 15 years, working with established players including Lew Soloff
Lew Soloff
Lew Soloff
b.1944
trumpet
, George Garzone
George Garzone
George Garzone
b.1950
sax, tenor
and Rashied Ali
Rashied Ali
Rashied Ali
1935 - 2009
drums
. The saxophonist cannot be accused of being in a hurry to get his name on a CD cover: a 15-year wait to release a debut is a lifetime in today's scene, where graduation can, all-too-often, take place after a young player's CD launch party. Inner Flights has been, however, worth the wait. Drazen and his quartet are tight, stylish, swinging players with real power and drive.

This is an album of hard bop, post bop, cool and more. Drazen's originals are combined with Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin
1896 - 1983
composer/conductor
's relatively unknown "This Is New," driven by some terrific rhythm playing from drummer Eric McPherson and bassist Carlo De Rosa
Carlo De Rosa
Carlo De Rosa
b.1970
bass
, as is Jimmy Van Heusen's very well-known "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," in a set that has depth as well as immediacy.

Drazen does ballads beautifully, as evidenced by a seductive late-night "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and the slightly mystical "Prayer for Brothers Gone." But he also excels at the up-tempo, hard-swinging, numbers like opener, "Mr Twilight," or the title track, which starts up with some chunky piano from Jon Davis, before Drazen enters on alto. Fairly cool and measured at first, the tune builds its energy as Drazen switches to soprano and his playing becomes more intense and frenetic.

In between the ballads and the stormers comes "Monkish." The tune begins with Davis' piano which is, as expected, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
-ish. It's also a little bit Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
-ish, adding a little touch of humor to the piece before the rest of the players enter and the tune shifts into a more straight-ahead mode, centered on Drazen's bop-ish alto.

The versatility that Drazen demonstrates on Inner Flights makes him a hard man to categorize. Best not to try. This is a stylish recording from a fine quartet, and Drazen is a hugely enjoyable player with energy and swing in abundance.

Track Listing: Mr Twilight; Monkish; Prayer for Brothers Gone; Jazz Heaven; Inner Flights; Neeney's Waltz; This Is New; Kickin' Up Dirt; Polka Dots and Moonbeams.

Personnel: Benjamin Drazen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jon Davis: piano; Carlo De Rosa: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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