Who would have thought that in this day and age a contemporary hard-bop / post-bop live CD could sound so good? Recorded live at London's Pizza Express Jazz Club on 20th and 21st November 2017 this little gem qualifies as a winner for the sheer visceral excitement conjured-up by its four participants. Senior partner in the band is veteran pianist Harold Mabern, registering a sprightly 81 years at the time of recording, whose playing here is absolutely incandescent. His former pupil, tenorist Eric Alexander cooks-up smoking, full-bodied saxophone throughout. Bassist Darryl Hall (not to be confused with Daryl Hall the rock musician) and Austrian born Bernd Reiter on drums complete the line-up and provide truly excellent accompaniment.
The set kicks-off with a rousing, memorable version of Frederick Loewe's "Almost Like Being In Love" and is immediately followed by Loewe's hit from My Fair Lady "I Could Have Danced All Night," taken at a satisfyingly frenetic pace. However, things take an even more exhilarating turn with Mabern's original composition "Nightlife In Tokyo," the minor chord structure providing a perfect backdrop for Alexander's biting tenor.
The sixties pop tune "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" is given a fresh re-working and remains in the listener's memory far longer than would have been thought imaginable. Another highlight is an energised and cliché-eschewing version of George Gershwin's "Summertime" in which Alexander manages to insert some quotes from "A Love Supreme." This fast-paced interpretation may well be one of the most original versions of that standard ever recorded, with the All-Stars channelling the sound of the classic Coltrane quartet, at times . The New York All-Stars confound all expectations and clearly demonstrate that this kind of jazz, which is very much alive, can really burn through any barriers. Hence the wholly accurate title.
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