145

The Eric Alexander Quintet Featuring Harold Mabern

David A. Orthmann By

Sign in to view read count
Eric Alexander Eric Alexander’s concert at William Paterson University was something of a homecoming for the thirty-two year old tenor saxophonist. In 1990, Alexander and his drummer of choice, Joe Farnsworth, graduated from the University’s highly regarded jazz studies program. To continue the William Paterson connection, Harold Mabern, one of Alexander’s teachers at the University, was the band’s pianist, playing beside trumpeter Jim Rotondi and bassist Dwayne Burno.
The band opened with the first of three consecutive numbers penned by Mabern, “All Aboard the Phineas Trane,” dedicated to the late Phineas Newborn Jr. Galvanized by a crackling break by Farnsworth, the band set a hard, unremittlingly swinging standard that would be maintained throughout the entire concert. Rotondi’s solo exhibited flawless control of the horn in the higher register, and some mercurial sparring with Farnsworth. Next up was Mabern’s tribute to Lee Morgan, “Edward Lee.” The medium tempo, hard bop tune inspired some of Alexander’s best playing of the set. With the pianist playing lithe riffs in the background, he worked his way through numerous, self-created mazes of sound that incorporated blues tonality. Mabern set the tone for “I Remember Britt,” with a flowing introduction which evolved into a bright bossa nova-like tune. The melody of the ballad “Last Night When We Were Young,” was played as an out of tempo duet between Alexander and the pianist, with Farnsworth switching from brushes to sticks and back during the solos.
At this point in the program, David Demsey, coordinator of jazz studies, and James Williams, director of jazz studies at William Paterson, came out on stage to make two surprise presentations to Mabern. The first was a plaque from the University commemorating his 20 years as a piano teacher and a director of student jazz ensembles. The second was The Phineas Newborn Award for artistry and excellence as a player and teacher by Finas Sound, Williams’ production company. Williams read several tributes to Mabern from jazz luminaries such as Mulgrew Miller and Charles Lloyd. Demsey then proceeded to introduce a special guest, Mabern’s longtime associate, tenor saxophonist George Coleman. Over ten years ago, Mabern encouraged Alexander to sit in with Coleman, who became one of the younger man’s primary influences. With Alexander and Rotonti (a member of Coleman’s quintet and octet) smiling in appreciation, Coleman played a marathon solo on “Dedicated To You,” ranging from bird cries to raw, emotional phrases.
The concert concluded with a long, wickedly fast version of “In The Still of the Night.” As the band played in stop-time, Alexander executed an impressive array of winding lines, followed by solos from Rotondi, Coleman, and an incredible turn by Farnsworth in which he traveled around the drum kit with the technique, structural integrity, and the command of a young Max Roach.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017 Live Reviews Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 17, 2017
Read AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia Live Reviews AJAZZGO Festival in Cali, Colombia
by Mark Holston
Published: October 13, 2017
Read CEO Experiment With Kurt Rosenwinkel at The Sugar Club Live Reviews CEO Experiment With Kurt Rosenwinkel at The Sugar Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: October 11, 2017
Read "Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "FORQ at The World Cafe Live" Live Reviews FORQ at The World Cafe Live
by Mike Jacobs
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Fred Hersch's Leaves Of Grass at Jazz at Lincoln Center" Live Reviews Fred Hersch's Leaves Of Grass at Jazz at Lincoln Center
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 26, 2017
Read "Moers Festival 2017" Live Reviews Moers Festival 2017
by Phillip Woolever
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "Live From Birmingham: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Erja Lyytinnen & The Impossible Gentlemen" Live Reviews Live From Birmingham: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Erja...
by Martin Longley
Published: November 2, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.