Wayne Escoffery: Uptown (2009)

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Wayne Escoffery: Uptown
On Uptown, his fifth album as a leader, the impressive 34-year-old tenor saxophonist {Wayne Escoffery employs an old-fashioned soul jazz lineup of sax, Hammond B-3 organ, electric guitar and drums. But don't expect to hear the sort of bluesy "uptown" jams associated with classic soul jazz tenors like Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
1925 - 1974
sax, tenor
, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Eddie
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
1922 - 1986
sax, tenor
or Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
1934 - 2000
sax, tenor
. While he's a hard-swinging tenor with a big, warm tone, Escoffery's passion, expressiveness and long, flowing solos, as well as his thoughtful, forward-thinking compositions, place him more in the tradition of progressive post-bop tenors like Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
and Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
.

A former student of the late, great alto saxophonist Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
1932 - 2006
sax, alto
, the London-born, Connecticut-raised Escoffery is perhaps best known for his key (and ongoing) role in trumpeter Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell
Tom Harrell
b.1946
trumpet
's highly regarded quintet. Since moving to New York nearly a decade ago, he's also held down important sideman jobs with Ben Riley
Ben Riley
Ben Riley
b.1933
drums
's Monk Legacy project, Mingus Big Band
Mingus Big Band
Mingus Big Band

band/orchestra
,Eric Reed
Eric Reed
Eric Reed
b.1970
piano
, Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim
b.1934
piano
and others. Here, he's joined by an energetic and cohesive group of contemporaries including his main foil, Israeli guitarist Avi Rothbard
Avi Rothbard
Avi Rothbard

guitar
, omnipresent organist Gary Versace
Gary Versace
Gary Versace

organ, Hammond B3
and the talented young drummer Jason Brown
Jason Brown
Jason Brown
b.1979
sax, alto
.

The set opens strongly with Rothbard's hard-driving "No Desert," followed by an unusually upbeat take on Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "I Got It Bad" and another forceful tune from Rothbard, "Cross Bronx." The most inspired track is Escoffery's exploratory "Gulf of Aqaba," with its chant-like refrain and Middle Eastern flourishes. Here, as on several other tunes, McLean's inspiration is apparent in Escoffery's slightly sharp harmonies and his ability to combine mainstream, bop-oriented playing with more outside influences. The album's closing number, Escoffery's "Easy Now," is an easy, loping blues that's the group's most straight-ahead effort at capturing a vintage uptown vibe.

Track Listing: No Desert; I Got It Bad; Cross Bronx; You Know I Care; Road from Eilat; Gulf of Aqaba; Nu Soul; Maya's Waltz; Easy Now.

Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: tenor sax; Avi Rothbard: guitar; Gary Vesace: organ; Jason Brown: drums.

Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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