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Steve Heckman Quintet: Search for Peace

Dan Bilawsky By

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Saxophonist Steve Heckman's Search For Peace serves as something of a companion piece to his previous album—Born To Be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013). Both albums feature the same band, present (mostly) familiar material, and walk pleasingly straightforward paths. So what's different? Well, for starters, Matt Clark played piano on Heckman's last date, but he's taken to the Hammond B-3 here. Then there's Heckman's choice of horns. The man-in-charge played clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone on Born To Be Blue; here, he favors his tenor and dusts off his baritone saxophone for a pair of performances. Finally, there's the general style and tone of the records. Born To Be Blue was fairly pensive in nature, but Search For Peace, in the words of its creator, "represents more of a straight-ahead 'blowing session' in which there are no holds barred."

Heckman seems to have a ball winding his way through some classic material, unearthing some infrequently covered gems, and interacting with his band mates on this one. He kicks things off with a nod to Blue Mitchell, via the trumpeter's calypso-leaning "Fungii Mama," continues with a high-energy run through guitarist Grant Green's "Grantstand," and works a more reflective angle with pianist McCoy Tyner's "Search For Peace." Next, Heckman delivers a version of "Pannonica" that's devoid of quirky Monk-isms, a baritone saxophone-fronted, Brazilian-based version of Randy Weston's "Hi-Fly," and his own "Hangin' At Slugs"—a blues-based tribute to the long-gone, rough-and-tumble New York club that gained notoriety after trumpeter Lee Morgan was shot there.

The last three numbers on the program—Sonny Clark's "Melody For C," the durable "Autumn In New York," and John Coltrane's rarely-covered "Spiral"—all point in different directions. "Melody For C" is down-the-middle swing, "Autumn In New York" gives Heckman a chance to work the familiar corners of a classic song with his baritone saxophone, and "Spiral" gives the soloists a chance to snake their way through chromatic changes.

Heckman and company don't break any new ground with this one, but who says they have to? Steve Heckman seems to relish the opportunity to make music and explore material written by treasured jazz figures, and he sounds damn good doing it.

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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