John Alexander: You Need 'Dis (2003)

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As its saucy title implies, North Carolina-based saxophonist John Alexander and his colleagues are into some serious post-boppin’ on this self-produced album, which showcases ten of Alexander’s engaging compositions.

Alexander, who plays flute (“La Danseuse Triste,” “Lights of Madeira“) as well as tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, is of course featured prominently throughout, but the soloist who caught my ear most frequently was trumpeter Jon Thornton (“Lookin’ Up,” “New Blues,” “Will I See You Again,” “Trina‘s Cheeks”). Lovely tone, unerring sense of swing. Pianists Derel Monteith, Bill Gerhardt and Gary Marcus each have some nice things to say, while trombonist Tyrone Jefferson weighs in with a crisp solo on the Messengers-style “Lookin’ Up.” The various rhythm sections are sharp and workmanlike (drummer Al Sergel sits out on “Madeira”).

As mentioned, Alexander shows he’s a tasteful writer in the jazz idiom, from burners (“Lookin’ Up, “New Blues,” “You Need ‘Dis”) to ballads (“La Danseuse Triste,” “Northern Lights,” “Will I See You Again,” “Madeira“), medium tempo charmers (“Two Bits at Ten,” “Trina’s Cheeks”) and the easygoing bossa “Caricias Amorosas," which marks his only appearance on soprano. As a player, Alexander is adept on every instrument, getting carried away and going over the top only on “Lookin’ Up,” one of the five selections on which his Michael Brecker /Joe Lovano-style tenor sax is front and center (he plays alto on “New Blues” and “You Need ‘Dis”).

For musicians who aren’t well known outside their neighborhood, Alexander and his co-workers give a good account of themselves on every number, and Thornton is especially impressive. It’s always refreshing to hear jazz of this caliber being played in places other than New York, Chicago, L.A. and other prominent metro areas. As I’ve often said, there’s an abundance of undiscovered talent out there in the hinterlands, and here’s an explicit example.

Track Listing: Lookin

Personnel: John Alexander, soprano, alto, tenor sax, flute; Jon Thornton (1, 5, 6, 9), trumpet; Tyrone Jefferson (1), trombone; Derel Monteith (1, 5, 6), Bill Gerhardt (2-4, 7, 10), Gary Marcus (8, 9), piano; Ron Brendle (1, 5, 6, 8, 9), Mike Holstein (2-4, 7), bass; Al Sergel (1-9), drums.

Record Label: Independent Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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