This album, recorded more than three years ago, is dedicated to the memory of Art Porter, whose enlivening presence serves to remind one how much ripening talent was lost when the 35-year-old saxophonist was drowned in November 1996 while on a tour in Thailand. Porter more than holds his own in the company of a couple of Chicago legends, pianist Christian and saxophonist Mitchell, who are joined by boppish trumpeter Williams, bassist Whitfield and drummer Adams in a session that traverses the landscape from conventional blues, ballads and bop to atonal experimentation and conversation (the abstruse and chaotic Consequences, on which Mitchell is given a chance to make some cryptic guttural noises and takes complete advantage). Later on, the tune exhibits a loose melodic framework but has little else to offer those whose disposition favors a more plausible lyricism and orthodox rhythmic design. To them we would commend the last track, Bird's Now's the Time, on which even Mitchell struggles mightily to stay within customary harmonic boundaries, sounding much like Eric Dolphy as he seeks to assert his individualism without going completely overboard. The rhythm section, meanwhile, charts a steady course while Christian, Williams and Adams weigh in with some respectable choruses. Christian plays unaccompanied on two of his compositions (Abstract Impressions, Blessings) while Porter is heard on the title tune and four others, the ballad My One and Only Love, the ambling Bright Star, Christian's Tadd Dameron-inspired Jeremy and the somewhat ironically titled Everlasting Life. He displays chops to burn and a biting tone reminiscent of Jackie McLean or Bobby Watson. The session opens and closes on a high note, but what lies in between is uneven and not always congenial. Still, Christian is an outstanding and vastly underrated player, and his radiance alone is enough to eclipse many shortcomings.
Jodie Christian, piano; Art Porter, alto sax; Roscoe Mitchell, flute, alto and soprano saxophones; Odies Williams, trumpet; John Whitfield, bass; Ernie Adams, drums.
Soul Fountain, My One and Only Love, Everlasting Life, Abstract Impressions, That Bright Star, Consequences, Jeremy, Blessings, Now's the Time.
Reprinted with permission from Marge Hofacre's Jazz News