Alex Hendriksen: / Fabian Gisler: The Song Is You

Mark Corroto By

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Try as you might, you can't help but sing along, I got to get my old tuxedo pressed/I got to sew a button on my vest/'Cause tonight I gotta look my best, yeah/Lulu's back in town. Saxophonist Alex Hendriksen and bassist Fabian Gisler's rendition of "Lulu's Back in Town" may take you back to Leon Redbone's version or even further back to Fats Waller. In any case, their presentation of "Lulu..." and the ten other classic melodies heard on The Song Is You nourish the soul.

This Swiss duo work in the domain, like Lester Young and Ben Webster, where interpretation of a lyric is paramount. The funny thing is, of the eleven tracks here, only three were introduced with lyrics. Thelonious Monk's "Ask me Now" only later (much later) was bestowed lyrics by Jon Hendricks and made (somewhat) famous by Carmen McRae. Maybe it is just that these classic songs by Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Michel Legrand, Harry Warren, and Victor Young have become so ingrained in our collective jazz vocabulary, they need no lyrics to convey their message. Hendriksen and Gisler remind us why jazz musicians from Pee Wee Russell to Miles Davis played these compositions. These songs were (are) the equivalent of comfort food. Strayhorn's "Upper Manhattan Medical Group" is delivered with the grace it deserves. Hendriksen's tenor intones the melody over Gisler's cheery buoyant bass. Neither musician strays from the root of compositions, but neither did Duke Ellington. When Hendriksen feels the need to embellish, as with "Chelsea Bridge," he opens with reordered embellishment that acts as series of sheer curtains that he pulls back to reveal the melody. Gisler performs "Stella By Starlight" solo, highlighting the contrast between the woodiness of his bass and the gut and steel of the strings. The music says follow me through some familiar and beautiful soul music.

Track Listing: Blood Count; You Must Believe In Spring; We See; Upper Manhattan Medical Group; Love Letters; Chelsea Bridge; Lulu’s Back in Town’ Stella by Starlight; Ask Me Now; My Little Brown Book; My Ideal.

Personnel: Alex Hendriksen: tenor saxophone; Fabian Gisler: double bass.

Title: The Song Is You | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ezz-thetics

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