The Anniversary Quartet is a working band consisting of Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Mike LeDonne on organ, and Joe Farnsworth on drums, so named because they played a gig to commemmorate the fourth anniversary of the Cellar Club in Vancouver, Canada. Thankfully, the music was recorded and is now available.
The Anniversary Quartet plays bop-based organ jazz, using forms and devices that go back decades. However, these musicians have personal sounds, their own identities, and a deep commitment to the timeless bebop idiom, so that their music avoids sounding retro or merely recreative. Instead, this hard-swinging band takes no prisoners, and You'll See! is a fiery delight.
The virtues of this music are well-defined on "11 Years," during which Eric Alexander takes a tenor saxophone solo that is probably as good as any recorded during the past eleven years. Not content to merely run the changes, Alexander instead airs out his lines with a sophisticated use of space and accents, giving his phrases a refreshing element of surprise, all the while swinging hard at a roaring up-tempo and delivering them in his easily identifiable tone. In fact, Alexander distinguishes himself throughout You'll See!, digging in on every track, with his stirring blues solo on the title tune a standout. Alexander is certainly one of the best younger tenor players around today.
But this band is far more than Eric Alexander. The Anniversary Quartet has been working steadily at the New York City club Smoke, and they've had a fortunate opportunity to build rapport. They breathe together, creating steadily mounting excitement on every track. Hear in particular how the band shadows and supports Alexander on "Cherokee," managing to generate excitement even with a time-honored tune. Their fire and commitment transcend the idiom and the material. And they improvise well on every track. You'll See! may not be radical or cutting edge. It is, however, very, very good.
Personnel: Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Mike LeDonne, organ; Joe Farnsworth, drums.