Alto saxophonist Charles McPherson has a reputation as one of the last true followers of the bebop tradition but this release shows that his talents stretch beyond that. The music consists of scores he wrote for the San Diego Ballet where his daughter Camille is a solo dancer. It encompasses two full suites and an excerpt from another.
"Song Of Songs" is a set of compositions based on impressions about love drawn from the Song Of Solomon. The music features McPherson laying down casually swinging playing on romantic themes that are reinterpreted in different settings throughout the piece. The variations include a sensual samba on "Wedding Song," earnest Hebrew-flavored melody on "Heart's Desire," soulful balladry on "Hear My Plea," exotic tropical undulations on "Thinking Of You" and down home gospel soul on "The Gospel Truth." The leader has an excellent supporting combo with Yotam Silberstein on guitar, Jeb Patton on piano, David Wong on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. Extra support comes from two sources. Singer Lorraine Castellanos appears on several tracks. She glides effortlessly through "Love Dance" in both Hebrew and English and does an intimate bossa nova duet with Silberstein's acoustic guitar on "Praise." Pianist Randy Porter also turns up, doing a powerful solo turn on "After The Dance."
"Sweet Synergy Suite" has some Afro-Cuban leanings and is by the same basic band as "Song Of Songs" but with Terell Stafford's trumpet replacing the guitar. Stafford and McPherson make a great team rolling with fiery spirit over several moods. They tangle brashly on the staccato beats of "Marionette" and stroll leisurely through the rolling rhythms of "Delight." "Nightfall" is a pretty piano-led waltz with the horns tracing out separate elegant lines as they play together. "Song Of The Sphinx" floats on a cool Middle Eastern vamp with the horns serenading and intertwining like Blue Note-era Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan.
The suite excerpt is "Reflections On An Election," a piece McPherson wrote after the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election. It is a sophisticated late night lament with traces of Charles Mingus that has McPherson blowing virtuoso soulful blues and Jeb Patton adding a nice bit of downbeat piano wandering.
All this music was intended to accompany ballets but it stands strongly on its own. This set demonstrates that Charles McPherson is as talented a composer as he is a saxophonist.
Song Of Songs: Love Dance; Heart's Desire; Wedding Song; Hear My Plea; Thinking Of You; After The
Dance; Praise; The Gospel Truth. Reflection On An Election; Sweet Synergy Suite: Sweet Synergy; Delight;
Nightfall; Marionette - 1995; Song Of The Sphinx; Tropic Of Capricorn.
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