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Eric Alexander: Leap of Faith

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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Acclaimed saxophonist Eric Alexander needs no special introduction. His pioneering work in the jazz world has been an inspiration to many of his peers since the early 90s. On this special chordless endeavour—featuring the chops of Doug Weiss on bass and drummer Jonathan Blake whose own recording in a very similar chordless constellation was likewise recently documented on the Giant Steps Arts label to high critical praise—Alexander makes a giant leap into somewhat uncharted territory for him and is rewarded with a set of raw and energetic originals.

The rumbling and tumbling that runs through the entire venture is present straight from the beginning, a short introduction of the instruments—just a who is who— before the three depart into the juggling of beats, rapidly walking bass lines and crunchy saxophone cries. The greats, such as Eric Dolphy or Sonny Rollins, come to mind when Alexander starts blasting his unique language in this intimate setting that boasts of dynamics.

The album is personal in nature: "Big Richard" is a ballad dedicated to Alexander's father, who passed away recently, while opener "Luquitas" borrows motifs from his earlier original "Little Lucas," a piece dedicated to his son. The saxophone lines on the former feel careful yet deliberate. Even Blake, who isn't known for being the most restrained among drummers, dials it way back and gives the woodwind all the space it needs. The quiet and poignant bass solo contrasts the otherwise healthily active stabs at the lower strings.

Hard bopping "Mars" borrows its name from its main inspiration, Bruno Mars, whose song "Finesse" shares the same harmonic progression, and is followed up by the one song that doesn't quite follow suit but makes an exception in what concerns the chordless aspect; impressionistically scattered piano clusters played by the leader himself create the mystical framework for a couple of introspective minutes, performed by all involved.

There is something strikingly traditional about the sound of Leap of Faith, yet paired with a boldness and a lust for adventure rarely heard before in Alexander's playing. An elegant outing by a unique player.

Track Listing: Luquitas; Mars; Corazon Perdido; Hard Blues; Frenzy; Big Richard; Magyar; Second Impression.

Personnel: Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Doug Weiss: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.

Title: Leap of Faith | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Giant Step Arts

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