Giant Step Arts
is a non-profit organization and label dedicated to helping jazz musicians create the music they want to without worrying about the pressures of the marketplace. On two of their initial releases, that translates into concert recordings done at New York's Jazz Gallery where the bandleaders are free to work out their ideas in the heat of live performance.
Jason Palmer Rhyme and Reason Giant Step Arts
Trumpeter Jason Palmer
explores at length on his set with most of his tracks being over eleven minutes long. He and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner
roll out long virtuoso statements over a variety of rhythms laid down by bassist Matt Brewer
and drummer Kendrick Scott
. The rhythm section maintains a simmering hip-hop throb on "Herbs in a Glass," creates a serene African backbeat on "Rhyme and Reason" goes Afro-Latin on "Sadhana" and "The Hampton Inn" and works a calypso feel into "Kalispel Bay." Over all this Palmer and Turner dance through intricate unison or harmony parts together before going on extended fire-spitting solo jaunts. There are two exceptions to this pattern, "Waltz for Diana," where the horns lightly glide through a subdued, soulful waltz and the compact "Blue Grotto," a scant five minutes of Palmer and Turner playing it impishly cool over a tricky tropical pulse.
Brewer and Scott are potent scene setters for most of the set but the nimble march variation "Mark's Place" gives them room for their own impressive solos. Brewer bobs and weaves hypnotically during his turn while Scott conjures up rolling waves of drum energy during his.
Eric Alexander Leap Of Faith Giant Step Arts
Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander
has made more than 40 records since 1992. In all that time, he has always worked with a chording instrument like piano, organ or guitar. That changes here. For the first time Alexander records in a basic trio format with just bass and drums and he sounds liberated. There have been hints of John Coltrane
-like intensity in his playing before, but not like this. With bassist Doug Weiss
and drummer Johnathan Blake
slashing and rumbling behind him, he blows with dazzling force and melodic control on "Luquitas," "Frenzy" and "Second Impression."
However there is more than just super-heated blowing here. "Hard Blues" (not the Julius Hemphill
classic} is a full-blooded deep blues with Alexander wriggling over the high and low ends of his horn with the cranky power of David Murray
. "Mars" starts as a heavy Spanish-tinged lament before Weiss turns up the tempo and the saxophonist barks with increasing speed, rippling out rollercoaster lines with authority. "Big Richard" is a tender ballad for Alexander's late father handled with graceful nobility. There is actually one spot of piano on the disc. That comes from Alexander himself on "Corazon Perdido." He plays sensitive piano motifs that alternate with thoughtful tenor cries over a rumbling rhythmic thunder to create a brooding atmosphere of quiet drama.
Eric Alexander has been good in the past but the passion pours out of him this time. His eye-opening intensity and Jason Palmer's infectious marathon excursions both show the potential for what Giant Step Arts wants to do.
Tracks and Personnel Rhyme and Reason
Tracks: CD 1: Herbs in a Glass; Rhyme and Reason; Blue Grotto; Sadhana. CD 2: The Hampton Inn (for Alan); Mark's Place; Waltz for Diana; Kalispel Bay.
Personnel: Jason Palmer: trumpet; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Matt Brewer: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums. Leap Of Faith
Tracks: Luquitas; Mars; Corazon Perdido; Hard Blues; Frenzy; Big Richard; Magyar; Second Impression.
Personnel: Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone, piano; Doug Weiss: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.