5

Eric Alexander: With Strings

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Eric Alexander: With Strings
To paraphrase Cole Porter: "Bird did it, Chet did it... even many vocalists I bet did it..." And now tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander did it—recorded an album with strings, that is. This represents quite a departure for Alexander who is widely known as one of the more emotive and resourceful improvisers on the scene; but so it was too for Charlie Parker, the foremost architect and unquestioned sovereign of the bop movement who was the first post-Swing Era superstar to record with a string orchestra, way back in 1950, laying bare the path that trumpeter Chet Baker and others would follow.

Is Alexander's conversion the start of an enduring love affair or more like a passing fancy? That jury remains out, but a clue may be found in the CD's modest thirty-seven-minute running time. That doesn't speak well for any sort of long-term commitment. Alexander says recording an album with strings has always been a dream of his; now that it has been done, he may presumably revert to his more customary fire-breathing persona. Meanwhile, what he has imparted are five well-crafted ballads (nothing Alexander embarks upon is less than well-crafted): his own melodious theme, "Gently," Henry Mancini's "Dreamsville," Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time," Horace Silver's "Lonely Woman" Lew Brown / Ray Henderson's standard, "The Thrill Is Gone," and one slightly more animated number, Mancini's "Slow, Hot Wind."

To carry out his purpose, Alexander has enlisted the support of his working group (David Hazeltine, piano; John Webber, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums) and a thirteen-member string section plus flute and French horn arranged and conducted by Dave Rivello. Even at these tempos, Alexander's mastery is self-evident, his solos never less than perceptive and engaging. Whether that is enough to please fans of the more hard-blowing Alexander remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: he never gives any endeavor, no matter how far removed from his natural flight path, less than the best he has to offer. He begins "Gently," then eases the tempo even more on the haunting "Dreamsville" and wistful "Some Other Time" before tenderly caressing the alluring "Lonely Woman." The sultry "Slow, Hot Wind" responds warmly to Alexander's persuasion, while "The Thrill Is Gone" affirms one last time his consummate mastery of the ballad style.

As was true on his recent album Leap of Faith (Giant Step Arts, 2019), Alexander seems determined to forswear his comfort zone and traverse new avenues of inspiration. On With Strings he has fulfilled a dream, which means the album will remain close to Alexander's heart no matter how warm or chilly the collective response to it may be.

Track Listing

Gently; Dreamsville; Some Other Time; Lonely Woman; Slow, Hot Wind; The Thrill Is Gone.

Personnel

Eric Alexander: saxophone, tenor; David Hazeltine: piano; John Webber: bass, acoustic; Joe Farnsworth: drums.

Album information

Title: With Strings | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: HighNote Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read How Can We Wake?
How Can We Wake?
Josephine Davies
Read Blue Has A Range
Blue Has A Range
Steve Cardenas
Read Then Now
Then Now
Rob Brown - Matthew Shipp
Read Human Dust Suite
Human Dust Suite
Miki Yamanaka
Read You're It!
You're It!
The Mike Melito/Dino Losito Quartet
Read TEST and Roy Campbell
TEST and Roy Campbell
TEST and Roy Campbell
Read 4K
4K
Modasaurus

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.