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Charles McPherson: The Journey

Edward Blanco By

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One of the original bebop artists of our time, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson adds to his legacy and marches through a selection of timely bop-infused material on The Journey, demonstrating his mastery of the idiom by transforming jazz classics into fresh-sounding bop tunes with a blend of originals rolled into one exciting package. Long associated with Charles Mingus—a twelve-year collaboration—McPherson has been in the public eye since the early 1960s and was the central figure in providing the sound track music for the 1998 Clint Eastwood movie about Charlie Parker. While performing a clinic at Denver, Colorado's renowned jazz club Dazzle, he met fellow saxophonist Keith Oxman, performed another clinic with him and decided that their collaboration should be documented resulting in the production of this recording.

For this date, one gets a stellar Denver-based quintet that, aside from tenor saxophonist Oxman, also includes award-winning pianist Chip Stephens, University of Denver and Rocky Mountain region bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid a fixture in the Denver jazz scene as well as one of the most in-demand players around. The bop is in full swing on the opening Stephens original composition "The Decathexis From Youth (For Cole)" featuring synchronized hard-driving saxophone statements from both McPherson and Oxman before the eventual solo spots from both Stephens and the leader define the piece.

The bop-styled opener is followed by an absolutely beautiful ballad from reed man Oxman where the altoist provides tender moments with superb solos throughout playing against the backdrop of Stephens light keys and Reid's soft brush work. The Rodgers and Hart classic "Spring Is Here" burns to a new and delicious treatment featuring a fast-paced up tempo beat that marks this one, hard and fancy. The original McPherson "Manhattan Nocturne" is one of the more memorable pieces of the set boasting a gorgeous haunting melody and at ten-minutes in duration, perhaps the most ambitious number of the album.

Charlie Parker's familiar "Au Privave" and the Sammy Cahn classic "I Should Care," are the other two standards provided with new arrangements and creatively reimagined by McPherson in which a humble duet with the pianist is a showcase of the session. Oxman and the leader trade salvos on the title track providing another hard bop moment to savor in an otherwise brief sizzling piece of musical pleasure. This dazzling session of pure bop comes to an end after a splendid interpretation of the Oxman original "Tami's Tune" and the original McPherson finale "Bud Like," penned no doubt, in dedication and respectful recognition of the late great alto saxophonist Bud Shank.

Those who favor the traditional bebop style of jazz are in for a sure treat should they decide to take The Journey and find out for themselves just what wonderful musical treasures Charles McPherson has to offer on this remarkably well done date. With a terrific cast of players, a solid selection of tunes and outstanding musicianship, this is one musical journey well worth taking.

Track Listing

The Decathexis From Youth (For Cole); Elena; Spring Is Here; Manhattan Nocturne; Au Privave; I Should Care; The Journey; Tami's Tune; Bud Like.

Personnel

Charles McPherson: alto saxophone; Keith Oxman: tenor saxophone; Chip Stephens: piano; Ken Walker: bass; Todd Reid: drums.

Album information

Title: The Journey | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Capri Records

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