Saxophonist Boots Randolph has been an integral part of several recordings that remain cornerstones in his career. Any fan of Elvis Presley will remember the edge he brought to the songs on Elvis Is Back! (RCA, 1960), with "Reconsider Baby being a stand-out. However, Randolph went past that to notch up more great moments with Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and even REO Speedwagon. His own recordings created a nest for him, showing the prolific ease with which he could slip into a genre and fill it with his striking voice.
Randolph delves in to the Great American Songbook for A Whole New Ballgame, and comes up trumps on this selection he rightly calls "evergreens. He continues to show a fiery spirit and zest on the up-tempo tunes. When a quiet tune comes by, he plays with gentility and grace. More, Randolph has a fine band that captures the core of a tune and then fills it with a beckoning light.
Randolph mines the depth of the tenor sax for "I'm Beginning to See the Light, letting the melody swing lightly. He gets deeper into the sway as he loosens up and takes his own path. His turns and probes are enticing, and become all the more so as he bites down into the groove. The rest of the band captures the moment perfectly with guitarist Roddy Smith loping in with juicy notes and drummer Tim Smith spiking the beat with rim shots. "'Round Midnight is initially essayed by pianist Steve Willets, with Jason Webb adding choice string arrangements on the keyboards that integrate smoothly into the framework. Randolph is warm and just slightly breathy, the melody his soul mate. He nudges the boundaries gently to add dimension without effacing the passion, before he ups the groove into swing to cast an indelible impress.
There are a few tricks that Randolph has up his horn. On "L-O-V-E. he sails into the melody frisky and jaunty, indulging in its effervescence. Then comes the raunchy part, as he gets up and flying and bursts into a rocking beat. Willets lets loose with intensely satisfying runs followed by Smith whose guitar adds snap and arch. But it is Randolph who towers with his fusillade of notes that carry the stamp of authority.
Boots Randolph continues to be a treat on this thoroughly enjoyable CD.
Boots Randolph: tenor sax; Roddy Smith: guitars; Steve Willets: piano; Tim Smith: bass; Ray Von Rotz: drums and percussion; Jason Webb: keyboard strings; Mark Stallings: Hammond B-3.
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