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It takes guts to devote your life to playing jazz, not to mention the tenacity to make a living of it in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Obviously 26-year- old tenor saxophonist Ari Ambrose has more than enough gumption to give it a try, while also making his debut disc anything but the expected and ordinary. For starters, Ambrose, who has recently been seen gigging with Ryan Kisor, George Colligan, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, keeps fast company in the likes of bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Billy Hart and then he opts for a piano-less trio date that leaves him out in the open as the main voice and soloist.
Ambrose is largely successful with his maiden voyage, choosing wisely from some standards and throwing in four of his own tunes to boot. Since his style is still in the evolution stage, some of his influences can be detected, such as the breathy Ben Webster voice he brings to "Something to Live For," the cascading arpeggios a la Rollins from "Just For the Love," and the guttural squawks and moans on "Olvidandos" that suggest both Archie Shepp and Joe Henderson. In fact, it would come as no surprise to hear that Ambrose has a fondness for the live trio sides cut at the Vanguard by both Henderson and Rollins. Of course, this is not to propose that Ambrose merely runs down old solos by rote; his command of the instrument and advanced improvisational skills make for an engaging listen.
Since recording this set in April of 1998, Ambrose has made a few more SteepleChase sides that have yet to make it to the States. As a way to trace his development, they are sure to be rewarding because this introductory piece suggests that Ambrose is a star on the rise.
Track Listing: Just For the Love, Ugly Beauty, Far Away Blues, I Wish I Knew, Esorbma, Love Letters, Something to Live For, Olvidandos, West 45th (63:34)
Personnel: Ari Ambrose- tenor saxophone, Dennis Irwin- bass, Billy Hart- drums
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