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One for All – The Third Decade – Smoke Session

A most welcome return…

One for All – The Third Decade – Smoke Session SSR 1605, 66:02 (06/03/16) ****1/2:

(Eric Alexander – tenor sax; Jim Rotondi – trumpet; Steve Davis – trombone; David Hazeltine – piano; John Webber – bass; Joe Farnsworth – drums)

It’s been over five years since One for All has released a group effort. As this group is made up of some of the finest hard bop players on the scene with the front line horn section each heavily recorded with their own projects (and trumpeter Jim Rotondi spending time in Europe), it was feared that the group had run its course. Not so, as their new CD, Third Decade, is hitting the stores on June 3.

This super group has been a favorite of hard bop devotees ever since their first CD was issued on Sharp Nine Records back in 1997. For over twenty years they have set a standard that hearkens back to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. They took their name from Blakey’s last studio album, and their cohesion, tight charts, and ensemble blend as a sextet is spot on. Being New York based they seldom toured but found a home at Smoke, a premier intimate jazz club, which was known as Augie’s when the band first formed. Alexander, Rotondi, and Davis each has gone on to having solid solo careers; and Hazeltine is both a first choice sideman, as well as recording over 20 albums on his own, many in a trio setting. John Webber and Joe Farnsworth keep busy with recording as first choice rhythm section mates.

Their new CD is the 16th for the group and each member contributes at least one composition. Right out of the box, the group’s sound is easily identified. Their sense of swing is infectious as the three horns set a wide sound stage. “Easy” is a mellow swinger written by trombonist Steve Davis, and his warm timbre is inviting. “Buddy’s” from David Hazeltine honors his mentor, pianist Buddy Montgomery. “K-Ray” also from Hazeltine, is a tribute to “Killer” Ray Appleton, a favorite drummer of Hammond B-3 organists.

The one standard on the CD, “It’s Easy to Remember” follows and Hazeltine is featured on his own arrangement. Steve Davis’ other tune, “Daylight” highlights the ensemble and Farnsworth’s cymbal prowess is on full display backing Davis and Alexander. “Ghost Ride” is a sumptuous ballad aided by the French horn of Dave Wakefield, whose addition adds a warm bottom end. It was written by Alexander as the title theme for a short film and it elicits a deep sense of calm.

“For Curtis” is dedicated to Curtis Fuller. It’s uptempo groove has Rotondi stepping up. Jim contributes “Ruth” on the following track in winning fashion. “Babataytay” has a Lee Morgan vibe. It’s soul jazz heaven.” “Hey, Stevie-D” ends our revisit with this superb sextet showing their blues cred.

The acoustics on The Third Decade are first rate as the session was recorded at Sear Sound using a Sear-Avalon custom console at 96KHz/24 bit, and mixed to 1/2” analog tape with a Studer mastering deck. The third decade with One for All is off to a hot start.

TrackList: Easy, Buddy’s, It’s Easy to Remember, Daylight, Ghost Ride, For Curtis, Ruth, Babataytay, K-Ray, Frenzy, Hey Stevie-D

—Jeff Krow

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