Ballads are often consumed as one of many items on a musical tasting menu, but they can also serve as a satisfying meal on their own, when prepared by the right chef. On Ballads...Searching For Peace
, tenor saxophonist Michael Pedicin serves up seven satisfying songs from the softer side of jazz, while also paying tribute to some tenors of note. John Coltrane
(Impulse!, 1963) was the inspiration behind this album, but the dearly departed icon is merely one of several tenor titans to be referenced throughout this recording. Pedicin pays tribute to Wayne Shorter
as he visits "Virgo," from Night Dreamer
(Blue Note, 1964), and gives a nod toward Hank Mobley
the man that Leonard Feather
called "the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone"by tackling one of his lesser-known tunes ("Home At Last"). Elsewhere, he tips his cap to Joe Henderson
, by occupying the role that Henderson once held on McCoy Tyner
's "Search For Peace," and references the aforementioned Coltrane album by borrowing a number from that outing ("You Don't Know What Love Is").
While an all-ballads record, by its very nature, maintains a certain sameness from start to finish, Pedicin largely avoids mood stasis by moving from general balladry to bossa-tinged dwellings ("Home At Last") and music with celestial guitar seasonings ("Few Moments"), before finding his way back. The focus usually falls squarely on Pedicin's pleasing saxophone work, but he receives sterling support from his band, and he generously shares the spotlight with this fine cast of musicians. Bassist Andy Lalasis doesn't simply anchor the harmonic foundation, but he serves as a guide, leading the band from chord to chord with smartly placed trails of notes. Drummer Bob Shomo
hides in the shadows, coloring the music with understated brushwork, while guitarist Johnnie Valentino
serves as the musical decorator, providing little touches that lend variety to the album's overall picture. The piano chair, alternately occupied by Barry Miles
and Dean Schneider
, never feels like a revolving seat, as both men bring class and a light touch to the proceedings. Ballads...Searching For Peace
is a respite from the adrenaline-fueled jazz that makes up such a large part of the market, but it's also a platform to present a tenor saxophone veteran that deserves wider recognition.
You Don't Know What Love Is; Blame It On Your Heart; Home At Last; Few Moments; Virgo; Tell Me; Search For Peace.
Michael Pedicin: tenor saxophone; John Valentino: guitar; Barry Miles: piano (2, 4, 6); Dean Schneider: piano (1, 3, 5, 7); Andy Lalasis: bass; Bob Shomo: drums.