This release is a welcome reminder that Bunky Green is alive and welland one of the dozen most important alto sax players in the country. In spite of notable associations with bands led by Charles Mingus, Sonny Stitt and Yusef Lateef, Green's available catalog until this release consisted of a single disc, Healing the Pain (Delos, 1990). But Green was befriended by Steve Coleman, and we have this recording as a result. Part of Coleman's genius is getting talent, ranging from a young Cassandra Wilson to an elderly Von Freeman, to be noticed by labels and audiences. Coleman produced this impressive session and introduced Green to perhaps the greatest rhythm section of his career: pianist Jason Moran, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Nasheet Waits.
To say that Green has "his own sound" is just one way of noting his achievement. He has flawless control of the alto's upper registers and his own form of the blues cry: piercingly passionate, yet always integrated within exquisitely crafted solos that are teeming with ideas. Like the man he replaced in the Mingus band, Jackie McLean, he can play "inside" and "outside" when apt within a single tune, so if the McLean of Destination Out (Blue Note, 1963) resonates for you, so will Bunky Green.
But Green is a different kind of composer and improviser than McLean wasand more of a psychologically charged storyteller in his solosas the four originals on this disc demonstrate. The emotional landscape of his original tunes range from the thoughtfully nuanced lyricism of "With All My Love," a musical "love letter" to his wife, to the fiery quest for personal meaning in "Tune X." His covers are equally provocative. "It Could Happen to You" is as unsentimental and rough-and-tumble as Chet Baker's version was teary and soft as marshmallow.
Green's young rhythm section sounds pleased to play with such a versatile and protean talent. These three musicians have clearly listened hard to his blend of daredevil daring and impeccable control, and they've found the right balance within themselves. With so much rightful praise given to players like Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in their 70s, this album proves that yet another seventy-something giant is still wailing.
It Could Happen to You; With All My Love; Another Place; Tune X; Be; Soul Eyes.
Bunky Green: alto saxophone; Jason Moran: piano; Lonnie Plaxico: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.
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