Joel Frahm, an eloquent young post–bopper, reminds me of another of my favorite up–and–coming young lions, the irrepressible Eric Alexander, who reminds me of George Coleman, who reminds me of Dexter Gordon, who reminds me of . . . well, you get the picture — and it’s an almost unbroken lineal progression from bop’s unsophisticated roots to today’s more openhanded expression of the language. Frahm, however, adds another component, the soprano saxophone, which he maneuvers commendably on two of his five compositions, “Elroy Sparta” and “Sorry, No Decaf.” Pianist Berkman adds a treatise of his own, “Interesting Perhaps, But Hardly Fascinating Rhyhm,” to complement Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” and the standards “Laura” and “Pennies from Heaven” (with Berkman laying out on “Pennies” and “Decaf”). Frahm chose his companions with care, and Berkman, Weiss and Wilson form a wide–awake and supportive rhythm section. While the original compositions are respectable (and Frahm’s cooker, “ Smokin’ Joel,” which opens the session, is a shade above that), none can measure up to “Soul Eyes” or the well–worn garments from Hollywood (“Laura”) or Tin Pan Alley (“Pennies”). In fact, the sensuous “Laura,” on which Frahm plays with undisguised passion and Berkman, a convincing solo voice throughout, is at his most expressive, is arguably the disc’s crowning point. On the other hand, one has to admire the way Frahm whips up a Trane–sized firestorm on “Smokin’ Joel,” gracefully amplifies the beauty in “Soul Eyes” and cheerfully expends those “Pennies from Heaven.” Even though Frahm says nothing we haven’t heard before, he’s an engaging speaker who knows how to ensnare one’s attention and keep it from wandering.
Track listing: Smokin’ Joel; Elroy Sparta; 100 Years in Motion; Interesting Perhaps, But Hardly Fascinating Rhythm; Song for a New Day; Laura; Sorry, No Decaf; Soul Eyes; Pennies from Heaven (49:53).
Joel Frahm, tenor, soprano saxophone; David Berkman, piano; Doug Weiss, bass; Matt Wilson, drums.