Well, you know what they say. There aren’t any real jazz bands anymore and the opportunities for younger musicians to thrive in a working environment are few and far between. Sure, it’s not what it used to be, but all is really not as bleak as some would want us to believe. Guys like Jason Lindner, Dave Stryker, and the various members of One For All have found it possible to keep integrated units together for a period of time and with some degree of success. In the case of the latter group, it seems even more miraculous that One For All has stayed vital over the span of many years and four albums, two for Sharp Nine and another pair now for Criss Cross. This is because each member of the group maintains active schedules as some of the hottest New York session cats on the planet.
Arguably their finest set to date, One For All’s The Long Haul is another showcase for the collective talents of tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Regular bassist Peter Washington was not available for the recording session, however Ray Drummond picks up the slack without as much as a blink. Once again, many of the tunes come from the pens of Alexander, Davis, and Hazeltine, with the latter member also providing much of the distinct arranging work that has given this group a distinguishing sound since the beginning.
A spiritual intensity permeates James Farnsworth’s opening number, “A Cry For Understanding,” with Coltrane undertones also in full evidence. Davis contributes a catchy and unforgettable “Echoes of the Night” and adds further proof to the argument that he’s quickly becoming one of our generation’s most formidable composers. His charts are so knotty and out of the ordinary, that Alexander recently told me that the band had informed Steve that “Echoes” was just to difficult to perform live even with the scores on stage. Taken in the odd meter of five, Alexander’s “Stash” is not to be missed, nor are Hazletine’s contributions which include “The Poo” and the funky “Summer Nights.”
Solo statements are strong throughout the set, with Alexander continuing to impress with his contemporary amalgam of influences. Trumpeter Jim Rotondi shouts with a bristling attack akin to the early days of Freddie Hubbard and that whole Blue Note scene. The previously mentioned Davis is solidly in the Curtis Fuller tradition, but has also gone far in establishing his own voice. And let us not forget to give the drummer his dues, as Joe Farnsworth is surely among the greatest drummers on the New York scene. Finally, engineer Max Bolleman captures the sonic verities as skillfully as ever, making for another solid entry in the category of mainstream hard bop worthy of wider attention.
Personnel: Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), David Hazeltine (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)