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Alexander/Hicks/Mraz/Muhammad: Solid!

Douglas Payne By

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Solid! is an aptly-titled tribute to Prestige Records, one year shy of its 50th anniversary. The music focuses squarely on the loose, swinging bebop the label made famous in the mid to late 1950s, when big names like Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane "headlined" sessions.

Most of the nine tracks are well-known parts of Prestige's heritage, and benefit by the tight-knit communication of the rhythm section, known elsewhere as the Keystone Trio (which recorded last year's fine Sonny Rollins tribute, Nekwlear Music ). Young tenor player Eric Alexander (b. 1968) was an excellent choice to carry most of the horn-driven leads. He suggests a summit of Dexter Gordon and George Coleman, while very clearly adding a complimentary edge and passion that's all his own. Jim Rotondi adds a welcome trumpet counterpart on Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae" and John Coltrane's emerging standard, "Straight Street" and vibisit Joe Locke jams with the trio on Mal Waldron's "Fire Waltz."

Curiously, of the participating musicians it is drummer Idris Muhammad who actually has participated in Prestige's tradition. But none of the "soul jazz" he contributed to during the late 1960s and early 1970s is represented here.

That aside, Solid! makes for fine, if unspectacular, bebop listening. While it has none of the fireworks (or the firebrands) that made the originals so compelling, it is certainly worthy music that is realized by people who know and love it thoroughly and present it well in contemporary contexts. Maybe Solid! is only the first of a series of tributes to represent the diversity of the great Prestige label throughout the last half century. In that case, it's a good start.

Songs:Solid; Little Melonae; Theme for Ernie; Fire Waltz; Four; The Star-Crossed Lovers; My Conception; Light Blue; Straight Street.

Players:Eric Alexander: tenor sax; John Hicks: piano; George Mraz: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums; Jim Rotondi: trumpet on "Little Meonae" and "Straight Street;" Joe Locke: vibraphone on "Fire Waltz."

Title: Solid! | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz


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