The ingenuity of veterans operating within the recognizable parameters of the jazz mainstream never ceases to impress. A case in point is Apples & Oranges
, tenor and soprano saxophonist Doug Webb
's tenth release for the Posi-Tone imprint. A program comprised of the warhorses "In A Sentimental Mood," "Spring Is Here," and "Estate," the 1960s pop song "How Can I Be Sure," plus a blues, a waltz and a couple of bebop lines composed by the leader may seem passé in an age when jazz relentlessly moves in new and novel directions. Against the odds, Webb, organist Brian Charette
and drummer Andy Sanesi make the familiar material and methods sound fresh and vital.
Webb consistently does two things exceptionally well. The first is that he executes the heads in ways that feel personal, yet never radically alter the essence of standard songs or the styles indicated by his own lines. Rhythmically speaking, Webb stretches "In A Sentimental Mood," just enough to make things interesting. Amid Charette's subtle support, a jaunty, slithering twist here and there doesn't detract from the somber beauty of Duke Ellington
's melody. He adopts a pure, unblemished tone during a stunning, melancholic rendition of Richard Rodgers's "Spring Is Here." A briskly paced treatment of "How Can I Be Sure" featuring Webb's soprano stands a chance of pleasing both fans of the Top 40 hit and jazz aficionados.
Webb's cool aplomb during "Alexico" resultsat least until the solos commencein debonair soul-jazz that doesn't raise its voice or break a sweat. The head of the title track is unadulterated, up-tempo bebop. Webb's tenor captures the triumph and joy of a great night in an intimate club.
Webb's savvy interpretations of the heads are exceeded by his prowess as an improviser. His principal virtues include an exceptionally large vocabulary, the capacity to alter his tone at will, and an uncanny ability to fuse ostensibly disparate elements into coherent statements. Perhaps even more impressive is his aptitude for doing these things in a relatively brief amount of time. Most of the tracks run between five and six minutes and, in addition to Webb, nearly all of them encompass solos by Charette and, to a lesser extent, Sanesi
Although Webb's solos sometimes evolve to an end point that seems miles away from the mood of the song, he never leaves the listener thinking that his fervent, well-executed ideas are lacking in organization. On "Alexico" it's almost as if he assumes a distinct identity for the length of a chorus and then sheds it immediately before the onset of the next one. The solo's range encompasses understated, almost diffident phrases, rapid, explosive runs, and two final choruses that preach the gospel of the blues and R & B.
Spend a week, or two or three with Apples & Oranges
. It won't wear out its welcome.
Alexico; Monkey Face; Forethought; In A Sentimental Mood; How Can I Be Sure; Coruba; Spring Is Here; Apples
& Oranges; Estaté; For Steve.