The Eric Alexander Quartet: Prime Time (2009)
Prime Time, another tour de force from tenor saxophone standout Eric Alexander, is one of those two-for-one packages that includes a DVD and CD so one can see as well as hear Alexander's quartet at work. While both components were recorded in concert in Asheville, NC, the CD / DVD performances aren't the same (unless they've been edited, as the playing times are entirely dissimilar). There is one song on the CD ("Some Other Time") that is not on the DVD, and three additional tunes ("Yasashiku," "First Impression" and the title selection, "Prime Time") on the latter.
The DVD opens with the invigorating "Pearls," which perhaps should have launched the CD as well. Instead, it follows "Blues Like," "One for Steve" and "Little Lucas." Not that any of them is less than engaging, but "Pearls" (written by pianist David Hazeltine) is clearly a notch above, as are Leonard Bernstein's opulent ballad, "Some Other Time," and the impish Calypso-like salute, "We All Love Eddie Harris" (also written by Hazeltine). The CD ends on an electrifying note with Alexander's fiery "Nemesis," on which the leader again shows off his dexterous chops and boundless creativity. Truth is, the CD gathers momentum and becomes more impressive as each track unfolds, whereas the DVD seems on the whole more balanced, with "Eddie Harris" preceding Alexander's soulful "Yasashiku" (Gently), on which he proves he can play pretty as well as fast. The spirited "First Impression" follows, before the group draws the curtain with drummer Joe Farnsworth's funky "Prime Time." Although the camera work on the DVD is less than scintillating, the picture quality is exemplary.
Alexander's quartet has been together for some time now (its members also perform together in the collective group One for All), assuring that the interplay between Alexander, Hazeltine, Farnsworth and bassist John Webber is unsullied. Hazeltine designs a number of handsome solos while Webber ruminates extensively on "One for Steve" and Farnsworth's lengthy drum solo introduces the DVD version of "Nemesis." Those who have heard Alexander, in concert or on record, will pretty much know what to expect. Those who haven't had the pleasure are in for an absolute treat. Seeing (and hearing) Alexander's quartet onstage is believing.
Track Listing: CD: Blues Like; One for Steve; Little Lucas; Pearls; Some Other Time; We All Love Eddie Harris; Nemesis. DVD: Pearls; One for Steve; Nemesis; Little Lucas; Blues Like; We All Love Eddie Harris; Yasashiku (Gently); First Impression; Prime Time.
Personnel: Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; David Hazeltine: piano; John Webber: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.