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P.J. Perry Quartet: Alto Gusto

Jack Bowers By

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Scanning an album that bears the name Alto Gusto, a prospective listener may be forgiven for assuming that it consists of a series of upbeat themes designed to cause toes to tap, fingers to snap and the heart rate to soar. And once it becomes clear that that is not what Canadian alto saxophonist PJ Perry's quartet had in mind, it would be quite plausible for him or her to wonder what had happened.

The answer to any such uncertainty may be resolved in part by the fact that gusto has another definition beyond "vigor" or "zest," and that is "enthusiasm" or "pleasure." Yes, it's true that the tempos on Perry's album are by and large laid-back to moderate (an exception is Dizzy Gillespie /John Lewis' snappy "Two Bass Hit"), but there's no doubt that Perry embraces each number with the utmost enthusiasm while he takes great pleasure in charming the audience at Edmonton's Yardbird Suite, where the session was taped in May 2017.

These are songs, Perry writes, that were important to him in his formative years, before he went on to forge a long and successful career as a leader and sideman with such celebrated ensembles as Rob McConnell's Boss Brass while earning Canada's prestigious Juno Award for his album My Ideal and earning Jazz Report magazine's Critic's Choice award as Best Alto Saxophonist for a record seven years in a row (1993-99).

The group opens with bassist Paul Chambers' carefree "Ease It" and closes with Charlie Parker's loping bop anthem, "Quasimodo" (a.k.a. "Embraceable You"), on which Perry imparts a number of subtle phrases that surely would have brought a smile to Bird's face. Between them are compositions by John Hicks ("After the Morning"), Benny Golson ("Stablemates") and Carl Fischer's tender-hearted evergreen, "We'll Be Together Again." The last number, "Close Your Eyes," is not the standard by that name but an original by Bernice Petkere. While there's nothing here to set one's hair on fire, Perry and his talented cohorts (pianist Jon Mayer, bassist Steve Wallace, drummer Quincy Davis) have mapped out more than an hour of persuasive blowing that pleases from start to finish.

Track Listing: Ease It; Close Your Eyes; After the Morning; We’ll Be Together Again; Stablemates; Two Bass Hit; Quasimodo.

Personnel: P.J. Perry: alto saxophone; Jon Mayer: piano; Steve Wallace: bass; Quincy Davis: drums.

Title: Alto Gusto | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Cellar Live

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