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Al Foster is probably best known as Miles Davis' drummer for much of the '70s and '80s, and as a well-regarded sideman for jazz giants including Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. He's also, somewhat quietly, been leading a first-rate unit of his own for more than a decade, one that has only released two albums, the first in 1997 and the second just out in 2008 on the Italian Jazz Eyes label.
Love, Peace and Jazz! captures Foster, who turns 65 in January, leading a quartet of highly accomplished and much younger players on a live date at New York's Village Vanguard last year. With Foster directing the action from the drum chair, the group delivers a rousing set of the sort of expansive post-bop that's been Foster's bread and butter for the past 40 years. The repertoire is split between Foster originals and tunes associated with some of his past employers, including two from Davis' book"Blue in Green" and "E.S.P."and Blue Mitchell's "Fungii Mama," a catchy calypso number that a young Foster first recorded with the trumpeter in 1964.
All the songs are given expanded treatments ranging from eight to fourteen minutes, leaving plenty of room for saxophonist Eli Degibri, a double threat on soprano and tenor, pianist Kevin Hays and bassist Douglas Weiss to showcase their considerable talents. But it's Foster who leaves the most lasting impression, both for his profound knowledge of the jazz idiom and for his generosity as a leader, pushing his junior cohorts to dig deeper and reach further in support of a shared vision.
Track Listing: The Chief; E.S.P.; Blue in Green; Peter's Mood; Brandyn; Fungii Mama.
Personnel: Al Foster: drums; Kevin Hays: piano; Douglas Weiss: double-bass; Eli Degibri: saxophones.