In many instances, saxophone summits are ballsy blowouts steeped in performing jazz standards, especially when the hornists are used to leading their own bands, and they just want to get down to business in the studio. But such is not the case here, thanks to superb Louisville, KY-based saxophonist Jacob Duncan's (Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin) original compositions that add a harmonious cohesion to this session. The quintet features NY-based poll-winning tenor sax artisan JD Allen
, who has been releasing widely acclaimed outings for the Savant label amid numerous collaborations with others.
The quintet mixes it up quite effectively via a potent attack and positive vibes along with a galvanized group-centric impetus. On this album, Duncan and Allen give it their best, augmented and highlighted by pianist Gabriel Evens' pummeling block chords, lyrical comping, and animated soloing, as the rhythm section thrusts the quintet by employing variable dynamics and pliant support amid sprightly bop motifs, odd-metered deviations, swing and jagged rock pulses. Moreover, the saxophonists occasionally intersperse a few bars of angst, adding a gravelly emphasis to the largely, melodic theme-building excursions.
"Don't Count the Days" is an homage to Louisville native Muhammad Ali and is driven by a celebratory hook executed by the saxophonist's harmonious unison lines, tinted with bittersweet overtones and Evens' daintily constructed solo. Hyman accents the frontline with snappy hits, deft cymbals work and fluid swing grooves as bassist John Goldsby
lays down the glue that bonds the musicians buoyant ebb and flow. However, the band punches out the finale with ascending choruses leading to the coda.
The title track "It's Alright to Dream," is a simmering mid-tempo bop, amped by Duncan's extended solo, where Hyman drops a few bombs, and mimics the saxophonist with rapid responses. Allen follows with robust phrasings and fluent flurries, then Goldsby circles around the pulse; although, the frontline dissects the flow with off-centered harmonic voicings.
Pianist Horace Silver
comes to mind during the quintet's bluesy, soul-stirring and snappy groove on "Nached Up," which is a piece that veers into a mystical encounter rendered by Evens' gentle chord voicings while stepping on his pedals to generate a bit of reverb. Indeed, we can only hope that Duncan and Allen continue this musical liaison. It's a quintet that presents superior technical skills and great teamwork, seemingly energized with a full tank of jet fuel.
Oomamaboomba Boulevard; Cartoons; Don't Count The Days; It's Alright To Dream; Dear Isadora;
Nached Up; Kentucky Mud Shuffle.
Jacob Duncan: alto saxophone, composer; JD Allen: tenor saxophone; John Goldsby: bass; Gabriel Evens:
piano; Mike Hyman: drums.