Jazz CD Reviews

Joy Road: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams, Vol. 5 – I Carry Your Heart – Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams – Motema

Vocals on Pepper Adams tunes.

Published on January 2, 2013

Joy Road: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams, Vol. 5 – I Carry Your Heart – Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams – Motema

Joy Road: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams, Vol. 5 – I Carry Your Heart – Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams – Motema Music LLC–MTM-102, 60:46 *****:

(Alexis Cole – vocals, Pat LaBarbera – tenor saxophone; Eric Alexander– tenor saxophone; Jeremy Kahn – piano, leader; Dennis Carroll – bass; George Fludas – drums)

Joy Road is a project produced by Gary Carner to honor the works of baritone saxophone player and composer Pepper Adams.  The project was released in the spring of 2012 consisting of a five volume digital box set or separate digital volumes of one through four.  Also released was a sampler CD from the five volumes and lastly we come to this above album, which was released on CD and/or digital format.  Various artists are used through the project and it seems that most used a baritone saxophone in the septet and quartet groups.

I Carry Your Heart is the fifth volume of the Joy Road set.  It is unique as it is a quintet with two tenor saxes, piano, bass and drums with a wonderful vocalist in Alexis Cole.  Pat LaBarbera and Eric Alexander work in a bit of lower register playing that gives me the feel of Pepper’s baritone sax sound.  All eight tracks have vocals and Alexis has a cool, bluesy and somewhat torchy sound.  All the songs were composed by Pepper Adams with the exception of “Julian” which was a collaborative composition with Pepper and George Mraz.

The musicians in this quintet are excellent in their interpretation and musicality.  I have heard Pat LaBarbera on other albums, and both heard and seen Eric Alexander perform.  These are two hot sax players and play well together in a lot of duo harmony lines, both dissonant and melodic.  When I hear them in tandem in the minor dissonant lines it takes me back to that post-bop time in the 1960s.  Jeremy Kahn, Dennis Carroll and George Fludas are new to me but I am now a fan.  Alexis Cole is a joy to listen to.  Her bio is impressive as she is compared to Sarah Vaughan and Anita O’Day.  She is an award-winning vocalist who has appeared in a number of top jazz venues not the least of which is Blues Alley, and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center.

I Carry Your Heart opens with “In Love With Night” in a long softly presented piano solo by Jeremy Kahn and moves into a bluesy soft ballad style with Alexis’ vocal in duet.  Very torch-like and beautiful.  About halfway into the song a tenor sax comes in with a dance around the melody nicely then moves to a few bars by himself and again joined by Alexis.  The title track, “I Carry Your Heart,” is a big tempo change up with Alexis’ singing sounding very similar to Anita O’Day and backed by the two tenor saxes in dissonant harmony, then taking solos.  “Now in Our Lives” intros at a slower tempo with the two saxes trading off short solos, then in a harmonic and melodic duet leading into Alexis’ vocal.  The saxes, piano, bass and drums take it up for a changeup, quick jazzy sound and moves into some nice fast tradeoffs with drummer George Fludas.  “Urban Dreams” is exactly that, sounding very dreamy like with Alexis’ vocal and augmented again with a medley line with dancing saxophone augmented by the piano trio part of the septet.  “Julian” from the vocal sounds to be a tribute to Julian “Cannonball” Adderly.  Jointly composed by Pepper and George Mraz there is a lot of swingin’ sax and that familiar dissonant saxes dueting together in what we used to call modern jazz and later I believe was referred to as post-bop.

I Carry Your Heart is a well performed, well planned and wonderful album of  blues, torch and cool jazz that grabbed the jazz heart in me.  I say to the performers Well Done!

I Carry Your Heart is well produced with excellent liner notes and the sound quality of the recording is top notch.  I am sure that if Pepper Adams were still alive he would heartily approve of this representation of his work as I do.

TrackList: 1. In Love With Night; 2. I Carry Your Heart; 3. Now in Our Lives; 4. Urban Dreams; 5. Julian; 6. Civilization and it’s Discontents; 7. Lovers of Their Time; 8. Reprise: I Carry Your Heart.

—Tim Taylor

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