New York-based and bred, tenor saxophonist Ray Blue is no novice but a veteran player who has not received the accolades he so deserves. Perhaps after laying down and documenting an incredible volume of music on Work
, the spotlight will shine a little brighter on this unheralded player. A composer and educator, as well as one of the most in-demand musicians in New York, Blue is a soulful performer, a full-throated sax man with a fluid and lyrical style which makes his sound unique.
On this superb piece of work, Blue draws from the songbooks of such giants as Nat Adderley
, George Coleman
, Gene de Paul and Matt Dennis
among others, crafting a repertoire of creative standards and novel arrangements of lesser-known jazz covers, as well as including three originals, in a hefty thirteen-track package of pure joy.
The leader assembled quite a cast of characters to help him form the swing and swagger this album enjoys. Performing with a core quintet which includes Sharp Radway
on piano, Jeff Barone
on guitar, Essiet Okon Essiet
on bass and Steve Johns
on drums, he also uses two other players on piano, one more on bass, Ron Wilkins
on trombone and Neil Clark on percussion.
The "work" begins on the percussive title track which sets the stage for what is to unfurl on the next few songs, all keepers. The brief up-tempo "Lift Every Voice and Sing," is followed by the soft ballad "My Friend and I Took A Walk," only to be eclipsed by Blue's treatment of the Bob Haynes classic "That's All"; incidentally, there is another version of the tune where Blue does a duo with pianist Kirk Lightsey
as the final number. It all gets better on the Jimmy Smith
standard "Mellow Mood" where, naturally, there is nothing at all mellow about it; it is a burner, showcasing the leader, the pianist and Wilkins on a high-pitched trombone.
Coleman's standard "Amsterdam After Dark," another highlight of the set, features Blue's chops on the sax coming through in stylish fashion. The pop favorite "Teach Me Tonight," is well-respected here, with the leader and band following the melody to the tee for a very nice version. Another "must hear" tune on the list is the immortal "Our Day Will Come," performed this time in a faster livelier tempo, giving the Mort Garson song a different spin.
Blue succeeds in presenting an album well worth the wait on Work
, a collection of infectious sounds full of warmth, fire and funk at times, all leading to an enjoyable musical journey that is quite a piece of "work," as stated many times "just old school swingin' jazz."
Work; Lift Every Voice and Sing; My Friend and I Took a Walk; Sweet Emma; That's All; Mellow Mood; Amsterdam After Dark; Teach Me Tonight; Don't know Why; Our Day Will Come; Everything Happens to Me; Attitude; That's All (Duo).