Eric Alexander: Dead Center (2004)
Alexander not only has a large, clean and likable sound, reminiscent of Dexter Gordon or George Coleman, his technique is flawless, he's never at a loss for the proper note or phrase, and he swings like every chorus may be his last. Swinging is what his partners do best too, and you won't find a more attentive or reliable threesome than pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth, longtime friends and colleagues who have performed regularly with Alexander and recorded with him on a number of occasions. The rapport is secure and unmistakable.
Mabern, who shows no signs of slowing down at age 68, takes the first solo on the opener, Alexander's "One for Steve," a walking blues written for a late fan from Philly, before the leader weighs in with some earnest thoughts of his own. Herbie Hancock's seldom-heard "Sonrisa" is next, followed by a brace of standards, Lerner and Loewe's "Almost Like Being in Love" and the Doris Day hit from the film Romance on the High Seas, Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne's "It's Magic."
Mabern wrote the rhythmic bossa "A Few Miles from Memphis," McCoy Tyner the plaintive ballad "Search for Peace," guitarist Pat Martino the dynamic title selection. The finale, a rapid-fire reading of a second Lerner and Loewe Broadway classic, "I Could Have Danced All Night," is a tour de force for Alexander and his mates, starting in waltz time, then releasing the throttle for scorching statements by Alexander and Farnsworth before stopping on the proverbial dime.
As usual, Alexander hits every note dead center, and in spite of its fair-to-middling fifty-two minute playing time, the album is warmly recommended, as none of those minutes is discounted or squandered.
Track Listing: One for Steve; Sonrisa; Almost Like Being in Love; It's Magic; A Few Miles from Memphis; Search for Peace; Dead Center; I Could Have Danced All Night (52:03).
Personnel: Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern, piano; John Webber, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums.
Record Label: HighNote Records