(Terell Stafford, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jesse Davis, alto sax; Mike LeDonne, Hammond B-3; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Alvin Queen, drums)
Matching 56-year-old veteran drummer, Alvin Queen with the best of today’s young jazz talent is a recipe for a successful jazz issue. After all, Queen has had a long and varied career playing with both cutting edge talent like Charles Tolliver, and more mainstream jazz elite like Stanley Turrentine, Harry Edison, Junior Mance, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Alvin has spent considerable time in Europe during the 70s and 80s when jazz musicians had to scuffle for work. Coincidentally, this CD was recorded in Spain, so Queen may still be a European resident.
For his first U.S. label release in many years, he has enlisted the cream of the crop of young New York based musicians, each a band leader on their own. Their talent shows immediately and they make Queen’s release a major event in his re-emergence on the American jazz scene. It’s a set of both standards and also original compositions by LeDonne and Davis. The funk is provided by LeDonne’s Hammond B-3 and Peter Bernstein on guitar. Bernstein has become the first choice guitarist on any Hammond date, as witnessed by his extensive recent work with Dr. Lonnie Smith, the preeminent Hammond player on the scene today.
The track selection fits squarely into bluesy territory with selections from Shirley Scott, Horace Silver, and Don Patterson. Scott’s There’s Blues Everywhere is a great vehicle for this band with Stafford, LeDonne and Davis all getting to strut their greasy licks. Seven Steps to Heaven, from Miles Davis and Victor Feldman, starts off with an extended drum solo by Queen; the drums and cymbals have a real snap to them, and Stafford, as usual, does not disappoint.
McCoy Tyner’s Contemplation slows the pace somewhat and Stafford and Davis blend seamlessly. LeDonne and Bernstein then have their way and this track has a classic Hammond feel. Queen’s Beat and the title track both are superb as Terell has lead duties on the former before Davis throws in some avant licks. On the title track, it’s an ensemble effort worthy of a 1960s Horace Silver session. LeDonne’s Shirley’s Song (likely a dedication to Ms. Scott) features a mellow background horn setting. Old Folks has Davis in a bluesy vein, and Horace Silver’s classic, Nutville, is drum-centered before the rest of the band return to Silver territory. However, you feel Queen’s dominance more than on the Silver version. The CD closes with Mellow Soul and we’ve concluded a righteous horn driven session made special by LeDonne’s mastery on the Hammond.
Though recorded in Barcelona, Spain, you’d never guess that you weren’t in a Detroit or Philly studio or even a smoky Harlem club. Fans of the two Smiths-Jimmy and Lonnie- or 60s Blue Note connoisseurs will treasure this trip back in time. Highly recommended!
Tracklist: There’s Blues Everywhere, Seven Steps to Heaven, Contemplation, Queen’s Beat, I Ain’t Looking at You, Shirley’s Song, Old Folks, Nutville, Mellow Soul
– Jeff Krow