All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

209

The Leaders: Spirits Alike

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Comprised of a half dozen of the most impressive bandleaders of the mid-eighties post-loft jazz scene, The Leaders made a number of fine recordings for Black Hawk, Black Saint and Sunnyside before quietly disbanding at the end of the eighties. Conceived as a more conventionally traditional project than their usual efforts, the original Leaders was an intriguing hybrid; free jazz masters playing in a primarily straight-ahead context. With a roster that included avant-garde luminaries like Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe and Famoudou Don Moye, it brought an edge to mainstream swing, providing a marked contrast to the then nascent young lions marketing phenomenon.

Now, two decades later, the original founders, multi-instrumentalist Chico Freeman and bassist Cecil McBee, have reformed the group with an all new line-up. Once again an assortment of notable bandleaders, this version has a more mainstream pedigree. Although the former incarnation of the super-group leaned further out than this one, the change in personnel doesn't affect its ability to swing.

Spirits Alike displays the new line-up's straight-ahead approach. With the passing of Lester Bowie and Arthur Blythe in ill health, the group now features trumpeter Eddie Henderson and altoist Bobby Watson on the front line. The caustic bite of Blythe's alto is supplanted by Watson's slippery, high-wire phrasing, while Bowie's irreverent asides are replaced by Henderson's muted Milesian flourishes and incisive, brassy exultations.

Pianist Kirk Lightsey's spot is filled by relative newcomer Fred Harris, whose approach is not as classically effusive as Lightsey's, but swings just as well, as his solo on his own tune, "The Ascended One," attests. The drum chair, formerly occupied by Art Ensemble of Chicago percussionist Famoudou Don Moye, is now anchored by the legendary Billy Hart, who drives the group with locomotive force and sensitive dynamics. Freeman and McBee play with the same drive and dedication as they did two decades ago. Freeman sticks close to the vest, still wielding a muscular tone on tenor, and contributes some of the most adventurous writing on the album.

"Deep Pockets" and the title track hint at the turbulent collective improvisation of bygone days, tempered with mature restraint. "Evolution" showcases the rhythm section's astute listening skills, offering further proof of Billy Hart's percussive mastery. "Lullaby For Imka" and "Consequence" display the sextet's hand at gorgeous balladry, while "Alas Poor John" plies a funky, tropical groove. While the new line-up might lack some of the primal bite of the original, The Leaders soldiers on, still swinging mightily two decades later.


Track Listing: Deep Pockets; Evolution; Spirits Alike; Consequence; The Ascended One; Remembering Bob C Vol. 1; Lullaby for Imka; Lady Bugg; Alas Poor John; Remembering Bob C Vol. 2.

Personnel: Chico Freeman: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bobby Watson: alto saxophone; Eddie Henderson: trumpet; Fred Harris: piano; Cecil McBee: bass; Billy Hart: drums.

Title: Spirits Alike | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Double Moon

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Walk The Walk CD/LP/Track Review
Walk The Walk
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 21, 2018
Read Vol II CD/LP/Track Review
Vol II
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 21, 2018
Read Months, Weeks and Days CD/LP/Track Review
Months, Weeks and Days
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 21, 2018
Read Space Is The Place CD/LP/Track Review
Space Is The Place
by James Fleming
Published: May 21, 2018
Read Poetry in Motion CD/LP/Track Review
Poetry in Motion
by Liz Goodwin
Published: May 21, 2018
Read Murals CD/LP/Track Review
Murals
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 20, 2018
Read "Live At Jazzhus Montmartre" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Jazzhus Montmartre
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 31, 2017
Read "On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971" CD/LP/Track Review On The Radio: BBC Sessions 1971
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "Daddy Said So" CD/LP/Track Review Daddy Said So
by Jim Worsley
Published: March 2, 2018
Read "Anti-Hero" CD/LP/Track Review Anti-Hero
by Mike Jacobs
Published: September 1, 2017
Read "Alto Gusto" CD/LP/Track Review Alto Gusto
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Inside Turnabout" CD/LP/Track Review Inside Turnabout
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: February 15, 2018