Bassist Avery Sharpe pays homage to three jazz musicians influential in his life: McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef. The ambitious and powerful Legends & Mentors provides Sharpe the opportunity to present his own music as well as the compositions of Tyner, Shepp and Lateef. The bassist has provided one section apiece for each artist, featuring two of their compositions alongside one original written expressly for them by Sharpe.
Sharpe auditioned for Tyner in 1980, ending up playing with the pianist for twenty years and providing significant contribution to his various groups. Sharpe's "Big Mac (Bro. Tyner)" opens the album, demonstrating Sharpe's strong musical insights into the Tyner mystique. Alto saxophonist Joe Ford, violinist John Blake and pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs typify the Tyner sound. A samba-like groove permeates Tyner's "Ballad for Aisha" and, for "Fly with the Wind," drummer Winard Harper provides the afoxe (Afro-Brazilian) setting, driving a particularly intense solo by Gumbs.
The Shepp section opens with Sharpe's "The Chief (Bro. Shepp)," featuring a fiery solo from the bassist. Shepp's jazz waltz, "Steam," spotlights Ford on soprano sax, while on "Ujaama," the group proceeds at a furious pace, with Sharpe providing the required pulse. Sharpe studied with Shepp for years, in fact, and made his recording debut on the saxophonist's Attica Blues Big Band (Inner City, 1979).
The final section, devoted to Lateef, begins with Sharpe's "Gentle Giant (Bro. Lateef)," written as a measure of the fifteen year relationship shared by Sharpe and Lateef. Lateef's "Morning" and the way up-tempo "Because They Love Me," which features solos from Ford (on tenor); Blake and another complex improvisation by Gumbs.
Sharpe's intent in conceiving this album was to demonstrate how these legends and mentors had "not only changed the face of music, my association with them changed my life and the way I view music."
Personnel: Avery Sharpe: acoustic bass; John Blake: violin; Joe Ford: alto and soprano sax, flute; Onaje Allan Gumbs: piano; Winard Harper: drums.