While not exactly breaking new ground, alto saxophonist David Bixler delivers a set of seven clever original compositions on Show Me The Justice. With a front line including guitarist John Hart and trumpeter Scott Wendholt, and a rhythm section including bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Andy Watson, Bixler examines the nooks and crannies of the post-bop tradition with a style that is spare and economical.
There is, in fact, a certain sense of directness about the whole recording. The New Yorker cut his teeth in larger groups with Lionel Hampton and Toshiko Akioshi, to name two, and while he has a greater opportunity to expand and expound upon his own material, there is a construction to his solos that can only come from years of working within the more rigid confines of big band charts.
In Hart and Wendholt, Bixler has found two sympathetic soloists who share his sense of economy. Wendholt stays, for the most part, in the middle register, and has a terrific ear for what is going on around him; his collaborative improvisation with Bixler on the title track demonstrates a mature player with an interest in creating an ensemble sound, rather than simply showing off how well he can play – which he can. Whether it is with his textural comping or fleet soloing, Hart shows a Jim Hall-like ability to get inside each piece and find its essence. His solo on the Spanish-tinged “Mentiras” alternates between rapid-fire lines and jagged chords.
Meanwhile Watson and Okegwo drive the set, whether lightly swinging on “How Did It Feel Like?”, where Okegwo gets to show his lyrical side in an all-too-short solo; funking things up on “Quack”; or burning things up on “Tenor Envy.” Bixler plays with a warm, robust tone on alto, and the ensemble passages with Wendholt create a texturally rich ambience. There is a level of comfort within the ensemble that would imply that this is not the first time they have worked together. Hart and Wendholt, in fact, worked with Bixler on his first solo outing, 2000’s Lost in Queens.
The compositions have an ability to sound somehow familiar, while at the same time new. Although Bixler works within a well-established tradition, Show Me The Justice is a captivating album of post-bop that should help win him some new fans.
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