Jeff Alkire: One Summer In Winters (2007)
Were one to accept the background notes on altoist/composer Jeff Alkire's One Summer In Winters, it would be reasonable to expect a Paul Winter-type album, in which the music is tailored to bring out the purity of communicating with the wildlife animals that frequent Alikre's northern California property. The altoist intended to "send something beautiful back into the world," and he noted that the music was inspired by the environment during the summer that this project was conceived. In short, this album was intended to be "a message of man and nature peacefully coexisting."
That message remains valid for the first seven minutes of the opening track, "At This Moment. Alkire's philosophy presents an easy-going but solid jazz sextet, featuring the alto flute of Craig Bailey, which could easily be interpreted as a musical communion with nature. Unfortunately or not, that intention vanishes in the dust for the rest of the album, which is a quite good and varied collection of hard bop music and fine ensemble and solo work by the group. "Pancakes" springs out of the box like a jackrabbit, spurred on by Riley Mullins' smoking trumpet work, Kelvin Sholar's gutsy piano and Akire's entrance, with more than a little of Art Pepper on his mind. The title tune is a specific reference to Alkire's mailing address, Winters, California, which provides the song's pun title and features a flute solo from Bailey.
A fine version of the underappreciated Young/Elliot standard, "Weaver of Dreams," is taken at mid-tempo, featuring an extended and melodic solo by Alkire. The altoist jettisons the Pepper persona for that of a typical, stripped-down Lee Konitz approach for the sax-bass-drums trio version of the Kern/Hammerstein chestnut, "All the Things You Are, featuring guest bassist Darek Oles and drummer Lorca Hart. After an intensive but most melodic solo in which Alkire barely quotes the melody line, both Oles and Hart get to show off their respective skills. The original group is back for the concluding "Barbara," from the pen of Horace Silver, and Darek Oles' "November."
The members of the ensemble not only support Alkire, but are potential future stars on their own. Riley Mullins, in particular, makes his trumpet skills known on any of his appearances (Chuck MacKinnon fills in on "Panama"), while Kelvin Sholar is a fine pianist (Ari Hirahara subs on "Panama") as is bassist Esperanza Spaulding.
Alkire is a California musician who has experience with the Jimmy Dorsey Big Band, Terry Gibbs and, beginning in 1990, spent nine years with the Ray Charles Orchestra. He became a jazz educator in Australia and returned to the U.S. in 2001, where he teaches at the American River College and Sierra College in Northern California. Multi-reedist Bailey, featured here on flute, is currently a Brooklyn, New York resident. Mullins is a member of the Wynton Marsalis Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Sholar is a well-traveled and classically trained pianist and composer.
Track Listing: At This Moment; Pancakes; One Summer In Winters; Why; Weaver of Dreams; Panama; All The Things You Are; Barbara; November.
Personnel: Jeff Alkire: alto sax; Riley Mullins: trumpet (1-5, 8, 9); Craig Bailey: flute, alto flute (1-5, 8, 9); Kelvin Sholar: piano (1-5, 8, 9); Esperanza Spaulding: bass (1-5, 8, 9); Chuck MacKinnon: trumpet (6); Art Hirahara: piano (6); Chris Lightcap: bass (6); Allison Miller: drums (6); Darek Oles: bass (7); Lorca Hart: drums (7).
Record Label: Self Produced