Eric Alexander – It’s All in the Game – (Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Harold Mabern: Piano; Nat Reeves, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums) High Note

Eric Alexander – It’s All in the Game – (Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Harold Mabern: Piano; Nat Reeves, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums)  High Note HCD 7148  – 2005,  53:32  ****:

Eric Alexander may be the most prolific young tenor sax man on the scene today – recording as leader, co-leader (for the super hard bop group, One For All), and sideman for his many recording mates. He estimates he has played on 60 to 70 CDs, quite an accomplishment for a player of just 37 years of age. He rates with Bill Charlap as a young prodigy, now fully developed.

On Alexander’s latest High Note release, It’s All in the Game, he leads a quartet doing 8 standards and 3 new original compositions. His quartet is made up of the brilliant piano veteran, Harold Mabern, Nat Reeves on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Mabern has played on Alexander’s last 6 recordings and mentored Eric in the late 80s while Alexander was an undergraduate student at the William Patterson College. Mabern is still in prime form at age 70. The icing on the cake for purchasing this CD is provided by having the services of Rudy Van Gelder studio, with RVG himself, both engineering, mixing, and mastering this CD.

Beginning with the mellow Rodgers and Hart classic Where or When, Alexander is in complete command with his full rich muscular tone. An original, Typhoon 11, picks up the pace with Eric matching beauty with brawn. Pianist Mabern gets in a nice chordal solo as well. Even the Donny Hathaway tune, Where is the Love, normally a clunker associated with vapid smooth jazz, reaches an acceptable presentation due to Alexander’s presence and swing.

It’s All in the Game, the title cut, begins with Mabern’s lilting introduction followed by some gorgeous midrange Alexander choruses, and then back to Mabern for some near classical solos. This track is one of the highlights of this CD. Open and Shut, the second Alexander original, picks up the pace and drummer Farnsworth gets in a nice cymbal driven solo. Next up is Monk’s Ruby My Dear, which meets the Monk standard played relatively straight ahead.

The third Alexander original, Little Lucas, named after Eric’s one-year-old son, is one of the more challenging compositions. The CD is closed with Bye Bye Baby, done at a rapid fire pace. The cover of this CD shows Alexander hiding an unknown five-card poker hand  facing his opponent who is holding throwaway cards. Our star rating for this CD shows at least four of a kind. It’s a safe bet that you’ll feel the same way after hearing this, the latest Eric Alexander release.

– Jeff Krow

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