Joe Ford

One of the most exciting truths in the jazz world is that within every top sideman is a solo artist itching to emerge from the shadows and into the forefront. Longtime McCoy Tyner saxophonist Joe Ford's stunning and diverse Bluemoon debut, Today's Nights, proves that such an evolution is more than worth the years of life and musical experience that go into it.

The straight ahead-oriented collection showcases Ford's masterful melodic and improvisational skills on both soprano and tenor saxes, adding touches of contemporary jazz and blues to what is truly a “players album,” emphasizing the inspired interaction between Ford and such long-term associates as bassist Charles Fambrough (who also co-produced), Tonight Show pianist Kenny Kirkland and drummers Jeff “lain” Watts and Darrell Brown.

'When Charles helped open the avenues for my own project, I decided it would be best to simply play the things I like the most, picking music that would provide a glimpse of my life,” Ford says. “All the styles I grew up with and have played professionally — funk, gospel, classical, avante garde and jazz — are within me, and now have an opportunity to come out. Though I've been playing professionally for many years, all the tunes are brand new, providing a current overview of what I'm about at the present time.”

Ford eases into Today's Nights with the cool, breezy title track, on which his inventive soprano melodicism fronts the swinging trio of Kirkland, Fambrough and Watts. He switches to alto on the percussive, driving “Interior Motive,” which features wild improvisation over Kirkland's funky piano foundation. The lush “Amy's Waltz” showcases Ford's tender side, with Kirkland providing a pretty solo spot as well as tasteful synth orchestral colors.

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