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"I'm trying to have the whole horn sing clearly and relatively evenly," Eric Alexander says in a quote in the booklet notes which accompany It's All In The Game. There's ample evidence here of how successful he's been with that aim, but he neglects to mention that allying it with an exceptional level of invention within the idiom of the post bop mainstream makes for the kind of listening that is as much as anything else whatever jazz means in these fraught early years of the 21st Century.
A veteran at 37, Alexander is at the stage in his musical journey where he has become something more than the sum total of his influences. Manifested in his sound are the very qualities referred to above, and in Harold Mabern he has arguably the perfect pianistic foil; the fact that Mabern is almost double Alexander's age is perhaps the strongest evidence there could be for the lasting appeal of this particular jazz idiom.
Alexander is also becoming something of a composer to watch. His "Take 11" finds him putting over a solo that evokes the spirit of Wayne Shorter at the same time as it retains his own burgeoning musical personality. It's relatively easy to pull off this trick when the material is as rarely heard as effective jazz as Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack's "Where Is The Love?", which the quartet treats with worthy reverence at the same time it stays some distance on the right side of sumptuous.
What it all comes down to is the fact that there should be a place in any open-minded listener's experience for music of this calibre. This reviewer will find a place on the shelves that's no great alphabetical distance from Fred Anderson, or Derek Bailey either, for that matter.
Track Listing: Where Or When; Typhoon 11; Where Is The Love?; It's All In The Game; Open And Shut; Ruby My Dear; Little Lucas; Bye Bye Baby.
Personnel: Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Joe Farnsworth:
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.