In spite of its tasteless and repulsive jacket illustration, this is my kind of Jazz! — thoroughly energetic, grandly inventive and swinging from start to finish. Also, one of the finest outings to date by young tenor lion Eric Alexander, which is saying a lot, as I admire almost every note he’s played since he started recording on the heels of a second–place finish (behind Josh Redman) in the 1991 Thelonious Monk competition. Alexander is superb throughout this dynamic and colorful session, as indeed he has to be to keep pace with his friend Jim Rotondi, whose flashing trumpet generates a widespread shower of musical sparks whenever it’s unsheathed. Earland and De Vos have their share of solo space too, and neither one disappoints. Earland loves the sustained upper–register preambles that instantly draw one’s attention to the B–3 (and give way to down–home choruses that never fail to charm), while De Vos favors lyrical single–note lines that are as lovely as Earland’s outbursts are kinetic. It’s appropriate that the session should begin with a composition by Horace Silver (“Blowing the Blues Away”) and end with two others (“Strollin’,” “Quicksilver”), as no one writes bluesy, hard–swinging charts better than Horace. Sandwiched between are Joe Sample’s funky “Put It Where You Want It,” the Isley Brothers’ “For the Love of You,” “This Is the Day (the Lord Has Made),” “Sweet Love” and my personal favorite among Herbie Hancock’s many compositions, “Dolphin Dance” (with another outstanding solo by Alexander). “Quicksilver,” by the way, is played more deliberately than I’ve ever heard it, but it works, thanks to inspired blowing by all hands. If you’ve been waiting to hear the downside, there isn’t one, unless one considers the 52:20 playing time too brief. In this reviewer’s opnion, Blowing the Blues Away is one of the more persuasive mainstream small–group releases of the year.
Track listing: Blowing the Blues Away; Sweet Love; For the Love of You; This Is the Day (The Lord Has Made); Dolphin Dance; Put It Where You Want It; Strollin’; Quicksilver (52:20).