Throughout Upward and Onward, One For All’s recently-released disc on Criss Cross, all of the important elements are firmly in place: imaginative arrangements of good tunes; tight ensemble playing; four strong soloists; and a rhythm section that never flags. Although the music is rooted in the hard bop continuum of the 50s and 60s (and occasionally goes beyond these parameters), every cut sounds fresh and vital.
Each of the band’s soloists finds ways to distinguish himself in a set of varied material. On his composition, “D’s Blues” (written with Mike LeDonne), trumpeter Jim Rotondi begins with short, clipped phrases, and builds momentum with a series of rapid-fire lines. On previous recordings, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander sometimes sounds like a man in too much of a hurry; however, on “We All Love Eddie Harris” and “Just By Myself” he paces his ideas well and improvises with a great deal of clarity. A fluid, melodic soloist, trombonist Steve Davis commands attention on every solo; in particular, I like his work on the Clifford Jordan and Bill Lee composition, “John Coltrane” in which he creates a great deal of rhythmic tension without wasting a note. For the past few years, David Hazeltine has been one of the finest pianists on the New York jazz scene. His solos and accompaniment on the disc are consistently engaging, especially on his own tunes, the aforementioned “We All Love Eddie Harris,” and “Blues for Joe Don.”
From beginning to end of Upward and Onward, Peter Washington and Joe Farnsworth are a near perfect bass-and-drums team who contribute substantially to the music as a whole. There is both precision and passion in their playing as they unobtrusively kick the band forward and interact with the soloists.
Track List: D’s Blues; Perspective; We All Love Eddie Harris; Epitome; Just by Myself; John Coltrane; Blues for Joe Don; Upward and Onward.