While this is his first meeting with the Classic Trio, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander is no stranger to two of its members, having performed with pianist David Hazeltine in the New York-based co-op sextet One for All and with bassist Peter Washington on Alexander's recent albums, The First Milestone
and The Second Milestone,
among other dates. Needless to say, Alexander is quite comfortable alongside Hazeltine, Washington and the trio's third member, drummer Louis Hayes, smartly shaping and remodeling the Dexter Gordon / George Coleman-inspired phrases that have made him one of the instrument's rising young stars. Always technically strong, Alexander continues to develop an assertive voice of his own, witness his brash and resourceful blowing on Brooks Bowman's "East of the Sun" and Tadd Dameron's "Our Delight" or his soulful deposition on Jimmy Webb'?s "Didn't We." Solid as Alexander is, he's matched stride-for-stride by Hazeltine, a virile soloist and responsive accompanist whose star is also ascending. As for Hayes and Washington, one couldn't wish for a more discerning and durable rhythm section. If there's any small criticism to be made, it is that the album's three strongest selections "East of the Sun," "Didn't We," "Our Delight" are the last three. That's not to imply that what precedes them is less than engaging, as the level of competence and interest remains high throughout. On the other hand, when Alexander rips into his solo on "East of the Sun" one can't overlook the feeling that he has been released from a straitjacket, so impassioned is the assault. Hazeltine, meanwhile, does his best work (and that's saying a lot) on "Didn't We," and both he and Alexander are in superior form on "Our Delight." The album opens with a brisk reading of Hazeltine's boppish "On the Boulevard," followed by Antonio Carlos Jobim's rhythmic "O Grande Amor," Hazeltine's easygoing "Jessica?s Night," Alexander's robust waltz, "Hayes' Phase," and Stevie Wonder'?s amiable essay, "Knocks Me Off My Feet." They're fine, but none has the charm or staying power of the last three tracks. By no means a classic album but nonetheless a very good one, and easily recommended but I'd have led with "East of the Sun" or "Our Delight."
Contact:Sharp Nine Records, 561 Hillcrest Avenue, Westfield, NJ 07090. Phone 908?789?7660; fax 908?654?1863. Web site, www.sharpnine.com; e-mail email@example.com
Personnel: David Hazeltine, piano; Peter Washington, bass; Louis Hayes, drums; Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone.