With the release of The First Milestone, Eric Alexander continues to make the transition from a young, hard-blowing tenor saxophonist to a mature soloist and leader of interesting small bands. Alexander is simply getting better at what he’s been doing quite well all along; that is, making high-energy music largely based on the spectrum of straight-ahead jazz of the 50s and 60s. Throughout the disc, his playing has its characteristic intensity, and his solos sound like complete statements rather than a fusion of disparate ideas. As always, Alexander has surrounded himself with bandmates (pianist Harold Mabern, guitarist Pat Martino, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Joe Farnsworth) who push him to the limit and have something of their own to say.
Alexander’s sheer joy in making music comes through loud and clear on several cuts, most notably the jaunty “Night Song,” and a funky version of “I’m Glad There Is You,” which is reminiscent of the sounds made during his tenure in the band of Hammond B3 organist Charles Earland. On both tunes, the liberties he takes on the melodies are as interesting as his improvised solos. “Last Night When We Were Young” gets a ballad treatment and doesn’t stray very far from that vein even when the tempo doubles in the middle of Alexander’s solo. “34 Was Sweetness,” a deliberate, virile stroll, is a fitting tribute to the late Walter Payton.
The contrasting solo approaches of Martino and Mabern are important to the success of the disc. Although Martino appears on only four of the eight tracks, his impeccable single-note lines swing quietly but intensely. Mabern plays with an odd combination of abandon and delicacy, and even at its most restrained, his playing has a startling momentum.
Track List:Stand Pat; 34 Was Sweetness (For Walter Payton); The First Milestone; The Towering Inferno; Night Song; Last Night When We Were Young; The Phineas Trane; I’m Glad There Is You.
Track Listing: Stand Pat, #34 Was Sweetness (for Walter Payton), The First Milestone, The Towering Inferno, Night Song, Last Night When We Were Young, The Phineas Trane, I
Personnel: Eric Alexander- tenor saxophone, Pat Martino- guitar, Peter Washington- bass, Joe Farnsworth- drums
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.