The opening cut on One Two Three is pianist George Shearing's bop classic "Conception". Do not, however, let this fool you. Although tenorist Jerome Sabbagh burns, this is not simply a blowing session nor is it really, as Sabbagh suggests, his take on the standards. While there are tunes such as a somewhat campy (how could it not be?) version of "Tea for Two," a fresh reprise of Coleman Hawkins' classic interpretation of "Body and Soul" and a bopped-up "Just in Time" demonstrate these are not standard standards. This is a creative take on some of the greats of jazz that still remain true to the songs' intent.
Sabbagh has bassist Ben Street and drummer Rodney Green as his rhythm section and they for the most part stay out of his way, leaving room for the leader's creative improvisational ability. Far from growing tiresome, the tenor engages as the session progresses. Most enjoyable are the delightfully quirky translations of Monk's "Work" and "Boo Boo's Birthday". Bill Evans' beautiful "Turn Out the Stars" has the gorgeous melody intact and Sabbagh takes it to stimulating places. A wonderfully swinging version of Bud Powell's "Monopoly" and a sentimental take on Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" close out the CD, the latter containing brilliantly understated drum and bass work. Sabbagh's first two releases presented him with his working quartet in very different clime. The lack of guitar in this setting, which is exquisitely under-produced, combined with the song choices, shows just how lyrical a player Sabbagh can be.
Track Listing: Conception; Work; Body and Soul; Just in Time; Turn Out the Stars; Boo Boo's Birthday; Tea for Two; Monopoly; Chelsea Bridge.
Personnel: Jerome Sabbagh: saxophone; Ben Street: bass; Rodney Green: 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.