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Charles McPherson: The Journey

Robert Bush By

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Alto saxophone legend Charles McPherson has few living peers, but even at the age of 75, he shows no signs of slowing down, a premise well documented with the release of The Journey, his latest recording on the Capri label.

Blistering post-bop remains McPherson's signature, but there is also a modernist streak that ripples through his improvising on this disc that can only be heard in terms of things that tingle the spine. On The Journey he hooks up with a crack unit of Colorado-based players including tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker, and drummer Todd Reid in a program that draws upon originals and standard material, with Bird's "Au Privave," rounding out the set.

Stephens' strutting riff-blues "The Decathexis From Youth," opens the disc with McPherson attacking the form with serpentine glee, squirming around the stop-time sections with acerbic velocity, followed by the composer's Pentecostal jabs and swinging block-chords over the thick, woody bass tones of Walker.

McPherson jumps on "Spring Is Here," with a squealing Dolphy-esque exuberance, but plies his own "Manhattan Nocturne," with the patient delivery of a master storyteller, compete with swinging, bluesy details, and yielding to Walker for a short, potent solo.

He then teams with Stephens for a lush, romance-laden duo reading of "I Should Care," full of grainy, sensual filigree, and the whole band pushes the title track into a higher dimension with Oxman and Stephens each laying down compelling statements before the leader, bringing up the rear, uncoils like a viper dropped on a bed of hot coals.

Much has been written about McPherson's debt to Charlie Parker or his 12 years of duty in the Charles Mingus group, but it is a mistake to assume that he ever stopped developing as a player, indeed, the music on The Journey indicates that this master has much more to say, and it's all worthy of careful attention.

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.

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

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