Recording Date: Aug 25, Sep 29, 2008
At age eighty, tenor saxophonist, composer and band leader Benny Golson is still going strong, and although he experienced a few lean years, is very much a force on the modern mainstream jazz scene in the years of the 2000s. He has revived the spirit of his original Jazztet, co-founded with the late trumpeter Art Farmer, on several occasions since the ensemble was originally founded in 1959. This edition features a strong front line of Golson, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, and trombonist Steve Davis, players from different generations who completely understand the hard and post-bop language. The rhythm section is even more delicious, with pianist Mike LeDonne, peerless bassist Buster Williams, and younger drummer Carl Allen working together in the best sense of that ideal. As one of the more literate, articulate, and outspoken representatives of the jazz world, Golson continues to translate it into a broader base of influences. "Verdi's Voice" is a Baroque type waltz with harder edges from LeDonne and Williams, while the layered horn sections are at once kinetic and static. The rustic ballad "L'Adieu" with Henderson's muted trumpet echoes Chopin. In an uncomplicated romp that sounds Russian, "Gypsy Jingle-Jangle" bumps up to a fast hard bop like the original Jazztet, with Golson unshackled and flying. As a democratic leader focused on balance, Golson is happy to give the other bandmates their space, as Davis fronts "Grove's Grove" in a laid-back groove a la Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with the leader's quiet resolve present on an observant solo. "Uptown Afterburn" is another prototype, an unapologetic hard bopper, a new tune that could easily have been done by the Jazztet of the '60s. Al Jarreau joins the band for an unhurried take of Golson's all-time classic "Whisper Not," with vocal comping and a cute second chorus. The Sonny Rollins standard "Airegin" is covered well, not as fast as it has been known, starting with the striking bass/piano ostinato tandem lines that immediately grab any listener and pulls him in - a device that codifies modern jazz. A killer version of Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" is a stroke of genius, as Golson's unique arrangement has Williams and LeDonne again locked in, with Allen's brief solo warming to a churning rhythm that leaps out of the speakers, with the sextet punching through the melody in heavyweight fashion. Golson can also write soft, silky ballads as "From Dream to Dream" with Henderson's musings and the tenor man sighing, while "Love Me in a Special Way" has the muted trombone tones of Davis lifting up the wise and mature tenor of Golson. In the end, the watchwords for this recording are erudite, refined, intelligent, and above all, sophisticated. Appreciative veteran jazz lovers will want this excellent set of straight-ahead jazz from one of the true masters who needs to reclaim or affirm nothing in his decades as one of the true legends in American music.
All Music Guide