I was all prepared to dislike Intuition
, the new CD from tenor man Wayne Escoffery. I do admit though that it was my own prejudices coming out. I have a problem with 29-year-old, hazel-eyed, 200-pound, 6 foot 4 sax players with 34-inch waists. I mean someone who looks like they should be posing for the latest in underwear, check that, who has modeled in major advertising campaigns, is not going to be able to blow me away musically. However, beginning with its frantically intense hypnotic title cut and ending with the up-tempo swinger "Is This the Same Place I'm In?", Escoffery's technical expertise and mature playing did just that.
For this, his second CD as a leader, Escoffery has assembled a powerful quintet that includes drummer Ralph Peterson and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. Together with pianist Rick Germanson and bassist Gerald Cannon, they serve up a highly accessible program that impresses with its full, cohesive sound. This is due in no small part to Peterson, whose drumming opens things up for Escoffery and Pelt to display their individuality and complementary techniques. On Pelt's somewhat laid back "Tightrope" and a quickly forward moving version of Joe Henderson's "Gazelle," precise melodic duets provide a pleasing balance to solo excursions. Peterson is the "Alchemist" as he uses a multitude of rhythmical ingredients and Cannon's consistent bass line to turn impressive cross register trumpet and tenor blows into a unified performance.
The group's presentation of the standard "I Should Care" features Escoffery's warm soprano sax sound, which serves an elegant counterpoint to Carolyn Leonhart's rich vocal, while a solo tenor interpretation of the Jerome Kern composition "I'm Old Fashioned" is starkly moving. "Enduring Freedom" is an extended forum that has the frontmen freely exploring as Peterson and Germanson create an unhurried improvisational atmosphere. Now if he only looked a little more scruffy.
Track Listing: Intuition; Tightrope; The Alchemist; The First One; I Should Care; Gazelle; Enduring Freedom; I'm Old Fashioned; Is This The Same Place I'm In?
Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: tenor sax, soprano sax (5); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Rick Germanson: piano, fender rhodes; Gerald Cannon: bass; Ralph Peterson: drums; Carolyn Leonhart: vocals (5).