With 31-year-old saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh, the Fresh Sound New Talent label presents yet another startlingly good young jazz musician. The French tenor man has a mature conception with a light, clean sound that reminds these ears of Hank Mobley. Like Mobley, Sabbagh chooses notes judiciously and swings firmly. And Sabbagh and North grow stronger and deeper with each listening.
Sabbagh is an adventurous improviser who spins long, lyrical lines and rarely avails himself of the "noise" effects, honking or squealing, that less rigorous musicians might play. Even on the free piece "Indian Song," Sabbagh improvises melodically. He is calm and reflective on ballads such as "Follow The Light," and he barrels along with burly swing on the odd-meter, up-tempo cooker "Trip." The varied program consists entirely of Sabbagh originals.
The gifted young guitarist Ben Monder provides inventive music in both his improvising and his comping. On the album's funky tunes, Monder cranks it up and rocks out. Yet everything he plays is jazz. You'll know when you hear him. Full credit also to bassist Joe Martin, whose bass lines create strong melodies and propulsive time. His hard swinging on "Trip" is essential to its success. Drummer Ted Poor, also, is essential to the success of North. He's a listening drummer, and above all, he swings.
I'm continually surprised, and very impressed, by the ever-growing list of truly talented young jazz musicians who are playing today. They play a forward-looking music that stays true to the eternal jazz verities of swing and self-expression. Add Jerome Sabbagh and his sidemen to the list.
Track Listing: North, Follow The Light, Extatik Eztetik, Indian Song, Sick Leo, Trip, Hymn, Every Now And Then, Not Quite Blue.
Personnel: Jerome Sabbagh, tenor saxophone; Ben Monder, guitar; Joe Martin, bass; Ted Poor, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.