A very talented saxist and composer, Olson has contributed three originals to this eight-track CD, plus some great tunes from such great writers as Jobim, Strayhorn, Shorter and Victor Young. He is Director of Jazz Studies and a professor of saxophone at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and has performed professionally with such names as Benny Carter, Randy Brecker, Lou Rawls and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Olson’s timbre is rich and always lyrical, and like the Conte CD reviewed today he doesn’t try to hog the spotlight from his sidemen. He always shares his musical space with his colleagues.
Committed is a lovely ballad of extended length honoring saxist Jerry Bergonzi, one of Olson’s inspirations. The Latinized Playing with Fire is fairly far out, but Olson has a way to making the far out sounds sound not so far out, thus retaining the interest of listeners who would just tune out improvisations getting into the “loft jazz” area. The very expressive treatment of Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge is one of the finest I’ve ever heard of this standard. The quintet sounds considerably larger than the usual jazz quartet.
Tracks: Vortex, Committed, Playing With Fire, 1 , Snake Eyes, Chelsea Bridge, This is for Albert, Stella by Starlight. [www.mattolsonmusic.com]
– John Henry