Jaleel Shaw certainly knows how to make an entrance. The first cut on the alto saxophonist's first outing as a leader has already earned the Philadelphia native an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. That tune, "Heavyweight Champion, an inspired tribute to one of his heroes, John Coltrane, is just one of many treats on this impressive debut.
Shaw, who's recorded with the Mingus Big Band, Boston's Either Orchestra, and young trumpet firebrand Jeremy Pelt, among others, has a maturity and assuredness in his playing and even more so in his composing that's well beyond his 26 years. Seven of the ten tunes here are originals and several of them, like the melancholy waltz "Binky's Lament and the knotty bebop workout "Conflicts of Interest, are memorable.
Shaw also shows a fine touch as a ballad player, with a slow, tender take on the obscure chestnut "My Future Just Passed. And in a test of his mettle as a soloist, he goes head to head with Mark Turner, one of the top tenors on the scene, on a brisk version of Coltrane's "Grand Central.
Like many young musicians, Shaw's influences sometimes overshadow his own personality, but his idols are well chosenchief among them Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and, in his powerful, slightly sharp alto sax sound, the great Jackie McLean. With able assistance from a talented young band featuring piano star on the rise Robert Glasper, plus guitarist Lage Lund, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Jonathan Blake, Jaleel Shaw has made a convincing opening statement in what promises to be an important career.
The Heavyweight Champion, Binky's Lament, On a Humble, Miss Myriam, Conflict of Interests, Lagelude (Miss Myriam), Empty, Grand Central, My Future Just Passed, Leellude.
Jaleel Shaw, alto sax; Mark Turner, tenor sax; Lage Lund, guitar; Robert Glasper, piano; Vicente Archer, bass; Johnathan Blake, drums.