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Escoffery, 34, is a native of London who moved to the United States with his mother at an early age. He enjoyed singing, and was a member of the New Haven Trinity Boys Choir in Connecticut. He eventually turned to the saxophone, and has performed with a diverse array of bandleaders and ensembles, including Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet, Rufus Reid, Jimmy Cobb and the Carolyn Leonhart Group. On Uptown, he is accompanied by Avi Rothbard on guitar, Gary Versace on organ and Jason Brown on drums.
"No Desert," one of three songs written by Rothbard, jumps out of the gate with Versace's organ setting the pace. Brown scores some nice snare rolls between lines. Escoffery rips it up on the tenor, at times bellowing out phrases from the instrument's lower register. Rothbard and Versace join in adding their respective voices in their own solos.
"Cross Bronx" is another high-energy Rothbard piece. After Escoffery's lead at the start of the song, the guitarist takes point. Brown and Versace step up in the action, but remain in the background. Escoffery's middle solo involves a bouncy series of rolling phrases, while Versace attracts attention as well in his solo maneuver.
Versace opens "Road from Eilat" without accompaniment. Brown, Escoffery and Rothbard come in. The music has a Middle Eastern feel, appropriate given that the song is named after a city in Egypt. However, once Escoffery warms up, the flavor becomes unbridled improv. At one point, he strikes a series of notes that make the tenor buzz. During the opening and closing melodies, the music conjures a vision of desert travel.
Seven of the nine songs on Uptown were written by members of the quartet which turns this album in an original blend of talents.
Track Listing: No Desert; I Got It Bad; Cross Bronx; You Know I Care; Road from Eilat; Gulf of Aqaba; Nu Soul; Maya's Waltz; Easy Now.
Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone; Avi Rothbard: guitar; Gary Versace: organ; Jason Brown: drums.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.