Alto saxophonist Benjamin Drazen has been plying his trade around Manhattan's network of small jazz barsplaces like 55 Bar, Smalls, and The Garagefor 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.
Mr. Twilight; Monkish; Prayer For Brothers Gone; Jazz Heaven; Inner Flights; Neeney's Waltz; This Is New; Kickin' Up Dirt; Polka Dots And Moonbeams.
Benjamin Drazen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jon Davis: piano; Carlo De Rosa: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.