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Eric Alexander: Mode for Mabes & Revival of the Fittest

Marcia Hillman By

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Eric Alexander

Mode for Mabes

Delmark

2009


Eric Alexander

Revival of the Fittest

HighNote

2009


Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and pianist Harold Mabern first shared a bandstand in public during Alexander's senior year at William Paterson College when Mabern (one of his teachers) invited him to sit in at a local New Jersey club. It was not to be the last time, either in person or in a studio session. These two CDs, recorded 12 years apart, capture the ever-deepening relationship between these two performers.

Mode for Mabes was recorded in Chicago in 1997 and features Alexander and Mabern along with Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone), John Webber (bass) and George Fludas (drums), good ensemble playing complementing Alexander's big, attention-getting tenor. The CD is composed of mostly up-tempo tracks with a few ballads ("For Heaven's Sake" and "Stairway To The Stars") thrown in for a contrast, allowing Alexander to show his soulful side. The opening title track (an original co-composed by Alexander and Rotondi) and the Davis original "Erik The Red" are both rousers emphasizing the group's more explosive playing. Throughout, Mabern is an anchor with his tasty piano work, making it all sound soooo easy.

On the other hand, Revival of the Fittest, recorded in 2009 in New Jersey, is a much mellower offering, this time with a slightly smaller group—a quartet with bassist Nat Reeves and drummer {{Joe Farnsworth{{—and the interplay between Alexander and Mabern more apparent. As stated in the liner notes, however, Alexander always likes to include "one or two high energy tracks" so the opening title song (written by one of Alexander's heroes, saxophonist George Coleman) is immediately engaging. Mabern was on George Coleman's original recording of this tricky tune and according to Alexander, "Having Harold in there comping, he is really holding everything together." Also notable on this track is Farnsworth's electric handiwork. The rest of the album is an interesting mix of material, Mabern in fine form on his funky blues "Too Late To Fall Back Baby" and Alexander especially soulful on the slower songs.

Alexander and Mabern may have begun their relationship as student and mentor but these two albums show their evolution into colleagues who make great music together.

Tracks and Personnel



Mode for Mabes

Tracks: Mode For Mabes; Sugar Ray; For Heaven's Sake; Erik The Red; Love Thy Neighbor; Stay Straight; Stairway To The Stars; Naima.

Personnel: Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Jim Rotondi: trumpet; Steve Davis: trombone; Harold Mabern: piano; John Webbe: bass; George Fludas: drums.



Revival of the Fittest

Tracks: Revival Of The Fittest; My Grown-up Christmas List; The Island; Too Late To Fall Back Baby; Love-Wise; Blues For Phineas; You Must Believe In Spring; Yasashiku (Gently).

Personnel: Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.

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