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Gerald Cannon: Live At Dizzy's Club: The Music of Elvin & McCoy

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In June 2022, bassist Gerald Cannon assembled an all-star septet to perform compositions by his late friends and musical colleagues, drummer Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner, in concert at Dizzy's Club in New York City. It is a respectable blowing session, with capable solos by all hands, albeit a tad less than one might expect from such an esteemed ensemble.

That is not to say anything on the menu is bland or unsavory. Still, expectations are understandably high where an ensemble of this caliber is concerned; this session, even though admirable in many respects, seems more methodical than inspired, in spite of some laudable blowing along the way and a generally solid rhythmic vibe from Cannon and his teammates.

Elvin, one of the Detroit area's talented Jones brothers (Thad, Hank), wrote "EJ's Blues," which opens the session on a buoyant note, and the high-powered "3 Card Molly." Sandwiched between them is Cannon's lone composition, the diaphanous "Three Elders," dedicated to Jones, Tyner and pianist Larry Willis, with whom Cannon performed for eleven years in the Roy Hargrove Big Band. Tyner composed the rest of the session's eight numbers: "Search for Peace," "Blues in the Minor," "Home," "Contemporary Focus" and "Inception."

"EJ's Blues" introduces the ensemble's four-horn front line: tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, alto saxophonist Sherman Irby and trombonist Steve Turre, leading to an engaging solo by pianist Dave Kikoski who is splendid at every turn. Henderson and Turre are smooth and eloquent when called upon, while Lovano relies in part on rapid-fire runs interspersed with high-register screams. Irby never sounds completely comfortable even though he solos capably, especially on "Contemporary Focus." Lovano seems most at home on Tyner's eloquent "Search for Peace," on which he shares blowing space with Henderson.

The septet is present on every number but the last one, Tyner's light-hearted "Inception," performed by Kikoski, Cannon and drummer Lenny White who serves as the group's rhythmic core on every number. Cannon solos only twice, on "3 Card Molly" and "Contemporary Focus," White on "Blues in the Minor" and "Inception." After "EJ's Blues," Turre is not out front again until "Home" and "Contemporary Focus."

There can be no doubt that Cannon's heart was in the right place, his choice of sidemen was splendid, and honorees Jones and Tyner were first-class writers as well as performers. The result is a very good concert which never dips below that level but, for reasons uncertain, seldom rises above it either. Even so, well worth hearing and appreciating.

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