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Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights

A. Lienhard By

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Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights
Alto saxophonist Benjamin Drazen has been plying his trade around Manhattan's network of small jazz bars—places like 55 Bar, Smalls, and The Garage—for over a decade. At long last, the New York native unveils his debut outing, Inner Flights. In a program of mostly original music, Drazen consistently delivers strong post-John Coltrane fire, with a sound that lies somewhere between Jackie McLean and Gary Bartz. Paired with Drazen, his band is a juggernaut, everyone possessed of the frenetic, driving pulse destined to keep this music aloft.

Opening with an up-tempo blues, "Mr. Twilight," the melody skates through modal twists, accented by pianist Jon Davis' strong, McCoy Tyner-ish left hand. Drazen's opening, guns-a-blazing drive is met with the full support of the trio behind him. A Thelonious Monk tribute follows with "Monkish," a nod to the legendary pianist's more comedic side, à la "Raised Four." True to the title, Davis begins this track with a jagged piano intro.

The album's apex arrives in the middle of the program, with the title track. Here, Drazen switches to soprano, unleashing a dazzling Coltrane-esque solo. The energy is matched again on Davis's arrangement of the rarely-heard Kurt Weill standard "This Is New."

Drazen closes the set with the ballad show tune "Polkadots and Moonbeams," highlighting his affinity for Cannonball Adderley. The slower pace can be a trap for less experienced soloists, but for Drazen it's an incentive to be lyrical and swinging at the same time. A relaxed, Red Garland-style solo from Davis adds to the Adderley homage.

On Inner Flights, Drazen and his swinging cohorts deliver on all fronts. It's a head-turning debut from a talented and extremely capable new voice.

Track Listing

Mr. Twilight; Monkish; Prayer For Brothers Gone; Jazz Heaven; Inner Flights; Neeney's Waltz; This Is New; Kickin' Up Dirt; Polka Dots And Moonbeams.

Personnel

Benjamin Drazen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jon Davis: piano; Carlo De Rosa: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

Album information

Title: Inner Flights | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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