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Wayne Escoffery: Veneration: Live at Smoke

C. Michael Bailey By

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Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery has become a hot commodity as of late. Besides his two previous, well-received recordings, Intuition and Times Change, he has also appeared on Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart's This Rhythm on My Mind and Eric Reed's Happiness, among several other recordings. What emerges on Veneration, Escoffery's new live disc recorded at the New York City club Smoke, is an artist, fully formed and in command.

Escoffery leads a quartet comprised of vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Lewis Nash. The brand of jazz played is sensible and melodic post-bop. Escoffery may be the happy medium between John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins—which may make him Michael Brecker, but that is not quite right. The young saxophonist was a protégé of the late alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, an influence that shows through Escoffery's long, carefully constructed solo lines

The vibes in place of a piano or guitar is a master touch. Locke is in a class by himself, not to be confused or compared with Milt Jackson, Gary Burton, or Bobby Hutcherson. He provides just the right vibe for Escoffery's powerful sensibilities, whether it is on a potboiler like "Looking Head" or a middle-of-the-road ballad like "I Waited for You."

The two artists show perfect empathy on McLean's "Melody for Melonae," which exists as one of the most perfect performances in this writer's recent memory. But even this closer is not the disc's highlight. That would be the Escoffery/Glawischnig duet on Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan." Escoffery plays with a sumptuous tone, buoyed by Glawischnig's walking bass. Glawischnig is given equal solo time and uses it perfectly. The listener never loses position, always knowing where the bassist is going. Jazz has something to celebrate in Wayne Escoffery.

Track Listing: Locke's Vibe; I Waited for You; Bee Vamp; Skydive; Tell Me Why; Looking Ahead; Isfahan; Melody for Melonae.

Personnel: Wayne Escofferey: soprano and tenor saxophones; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.

Title: Veneration: Live at Smoke | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Savant Records

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