Left New York's Jazz Standard last month barefoot because the band blew my socks (and even my boots) off. Baby it was cold outside, a December night threatening snow. But Bennie Wallace and the boys had played so hot I was warmed up inside and so immune to any chill.
Wallace has been working on his tribute to Coleman Hawkins for some time and to celebrate the 2007 Justin Time CD release of Disorder at the Border: The Music of Coleman Hawkins, he presented this first of a series of live New York City shows. For the CD he was joined by supremely gifted jazzmen who did this admirable, endlessly pleasing recording proud. Some very able-bodied New York gents stepped in for the live pre-Christmas 2007 run.
Tenorist Wallace is no imitator. Live or on record, he makes the Hawk soar, capturing the spirit of Hawkins while doing things his own way. This is music that makes a person glad to be alivemuch the same way Hawkins' music and playing did. After all, the original played to entice people to dance and you can still feel that joyful vibe here.
Wallace coaxes a rollercoaster of sounds, emotions, feelings and stimulating thrills from his instrument, especially in his solos. One wonders why one hasn't made hearing him a regimen of daily life. And he brings new appreciation of Hawkins' music to today's scene. Not that he does it alone. Terell Stafford on trumpet, Ray Anderson on trombone, Jesse Davis and Brad Leali on altos, Adam Schroeder on baritone (the latter also at the shows) provide all the oomph and pah to make the recording feel bright and on-the-spot. (The CD performance is of a live gig at Jazzfest Berlin in November 2004). The original crackerjack rhythm section, at Jazz Standard except for drummer Alvin Queen, included pianist Donald Vega and bassist Danton Boller.
For the 2007 Jazz Standard shows, NY-based Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Alan Ferber on trombone, Steve Wilson on alto, with altoist Jerry Dodgionfor personal reasons unable to do the entire run (as he had on a lead-in tour) but scheduled for the Saturday setsand drummer Willie Jones were on hand. And these were very capable hands indeed. Guitarist Adam Rafferty was enlisted to fill in the mix of one less alto.
Hear Anthony Wilson's hopping charts and Wallace's own intense, multi-textured arrangement of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose and you will see why this listener's socks got blown off. Hawkins' own "Disorder at the Border and "Bean and the Boys and his signature "Body and Soul," "La Rosita and "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho delight and amaze. A kind of heaven down here.
[ed. this CD was named one of AAJ-NY's Best Tribute Albums of 2007.]
Disorder at the Border; La Rosita; Bean and the Boys; Honeysuckle Rose; Body and Soul; Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.