Benny Golson – Horizon Ahead – HighNote

Benny Golson – Horizon Ahead – HighNote HCD7288 54:54 ***:

Benny Golson is a tenor saxophonist in the hard bop tradition and always worthy of a listen.

(Benny Golson – tenor sax; Mike LeDonne – piano; Buster Williams – bass; Carl Allen – drums)

There is an old saying which runs along the following lines: ”if you’re not getting old, you’re dead”. The former is almost always better than the latter.  For Benny Golson, the getting old part does not seem to be any problem as he continues to perform publicly and record, if not prodigiously, at least regularly. The latest venture for this octogenarian is the release Horizon Ahead where Golson is joined by a sprightly rhythm section, to delve into an offering of several of his lesser-known originals, and some tried and true standards.

Duke Ellington is well-represented with two offerings “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “Mood Indigo,” from different ends of the rhythm spectrum. The former prances along quite smartly with basset Williams setting the pace, as Golson slyly opens the melody, which sets up his solo turn. On the latter, Golson begins the tune in ballad style with a deep tone, as he covers the melody, then embarks on an oblique solo that flows from the opening sequence.

Among many of the original compositions written by Benny Golson that became jazz standards Whisper Not, I Remember Clifford and Along Came Betty are readily remembered and played/recorded frequently by all manner of jazz musicians both professional and amateur . Those offered here “Jump Start”, “Horizon Ahead”, “Domingo” and “Night Shade” do not fall into that iconic category. The musical frameworks are generally straight-forward with uncomplicated time signatures and regrettably not likely to be consigned to one’s memory bank. All are well-played with undoubted commitment by the members of the band,  although there is some unevenness in the execution. “Domingo” was written for a 1957 outing titled Lee Morgan Vol.3, on which Golson was a featured performer. The version here retains its hard-bop roots and integrity, but time is a cruel master, and Golson’s playing, not unexpectedly, has diminished accordingly.

The final track on the session is an extended drum solo from Carl Allen. It is an expressive and expansive “tour de force” whereby Allen covers all his drum kit telling a harmonic story.

Benny Golson is a jazz original as a composer, arranger, and tenor saxophonist in the hard bop tradition and always worthy of a listen.

TrackList: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Jump Start; Horizon Ahead; Mood Indigo; Domingo; Lulu’s Back In Town; Night Shade; Three Little Words; Spoken Introduction to “Out Of The Darkness, And Into The Light”; Out Of The Darkness, And Into The Light

—Pierre Giroux

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