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Steve Heckman Quintet: Search for Peace

C. Michael Bailey By

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Steve Heckman is a meat 'n potatoes saxophonist whose previous recording, Born to be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013) was a trip through the heart of the jazz mainstream, circa 1960 (with better sonics). Heckman follows Born to be Blue with a right turn into hard bop atop of an organ-guitar quartet.

For the present recording, Heckman employs his same band as Born to be Blue with Matt Clark switching to the Hammond B-3. The result is a low-calorie funk-fest sans the grease. Crisp and clean, Search for Peace swings with a relaxed but intent momentum and contains not a few surprises. Guitarist Howard Alden is not the first guitarist that would come to mind for this repertoire, but he has been a Heckman collaborator for some time and makes the best of this established relationship. Blue Mitchell's "Fungii Mama" provides a good jumping-off point for the band to warm up in a tropically environ similar to Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas." Drummer Arkia Tana is tight and precise, directing the rhythm of the piece and bassist Marcus Shelby's instrument is captured full-throated and true.

Grant Green's "Grantstand" provides a showcase of Alden, who takes full advantage of the spare, but swinging accompaniment. Heckman takes McCoy Tyner's "Search for Peace" and turns it into an understate ballad that is well-structured but still has ample room to move for the soloists. Heckman finds the "soft" in hard bop with his light-as-air treatment of Sonny Clark's "Melody in C." Alden again shines with a chord break before he begins his soloing proper. John Coltrane's "Spiral" is given a full workout by Heckman who often cites Coltrane as an influence, but who has never fallen completely under the spell of that tenor titan.

Search for Peace is both a proper response to the previous Born to be Blue and a sensible evolution from that point. Heckman is a durable saxophonist with plenty of chops to spare. He always has his ear on the melody.

Track Listing: Fungii Mama; Grantstand; Search for Peace; Pannonica; Hi-Fly; Hangin' at Slug's; Melody for C; Autumn in New York; Spiral.

Personnel: Steve Heckman: tenor and baritone saxophones; Howard Alden: guitar; Matt Clark: Hammond B-3 organ; Marcus Shelby: bass; Akira Tana: drums.

Title: Search for Peace | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Jazzed Media

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