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A best seller in Japan in 1997, Man With A Horn has recently been released Stateside by the folks at Milestone records. Thirty-year-old tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander shows quite a bit of verve and panache on this release. Alexander’s funk-swing based “Unsung Hero” glowingly demonstrates his sure-fired, well-pronounced phrasing and cleverly stated lyricism through his huge yet commanding tone. Here, Alexander’s shows uncanny maturity for such a young musician with a keen sense of dynamics and a rapid sense of development through improvisation or adhering to compositional form.
On “Unsung Hero” and throughout, Alexander is afforded the luxury of performing with pianist and elder statesman, Cedar Walton who comps and prods the rhythm section consisting of bassist Dwayne Burns and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Walton’s fluent single note runs and overall elegance behind the keys is truly an asset for this young tenorist. Man With A Horn is an impressive debut complete with a striking rendition of the classic “A Time For Love” and the modern bop-ish Alexander original, “GCCJ” where Alexander takes off in free flight. On this piece Alexander maintains a richly melodic theme amid swift yet clear, succinct phrasing and articulations. Guest artist’s trombonist Steve Davis and trumpeter Jim Rotundi perform on this piece while trading some exasperating and fluid soloing keeping in line with the up-tempo pace. Cedar Walton’s “Midnight Waltz” has that 60’s Blue Note feel as the composition is loosely based around a waltz motif enhanced by a memorably melodic hook. Again, Alexander states his presence through soaring yet melodic lyricism as his robust and captivating attack emits signs of maturity and finely honed chops, complete with a stylistic and personal approach. Walton’s “Fiesta Espanola” closes out this recording featuring a Latin tinge yet the complex unison lines and heated proceedings serve as a launching pad for Alexander’s blazing yet thoroughly meaningful phrasing. Here, Alexander’s husky tenor sax tone and remarkable fluency illustrate his technical gifts and “feel” for compositional form and direction. The great Cedar Walton enters into turbo mode with extremely fast single note soloing in the tradition of the great Bop pianists, namely Bud Powell; hence, the album ends on a high note and imparts a lasting impression.
Simply put, Eric Alexander has a bright future and should reap the benefits of being a top-flight soloist and strong composer. Man With A Horn is not a fluke and certainly won’t end up in the bargain bins at your local record store. This is strong stuff from a young cat who receives superior support from a band that brings seasoned experience and young, fresh ideas to the table. * * * *
Eric Alexander; Tenor Saxophone: Cedar Walton; Piano: Dwayne Burns; Bass: Joe Farnsworth; Drums: Guest Musicians: Jim Rotundi; Trumpet (selected tracks) and Steve Davis; Trombone (selected tracks)