PJ Perry Quartet – Alto Gusto: Live At The Yardbird Suite – CellarLive CL051317 62:33****

A taste of the boppish playing style of this highly regarded musician.

( PJ Perry – alto saxophone; Jon Mayer – piano; Steve Wallace – acoustic bass; Quincy Davis – drums)

PJ Perry is not a name that would be generally recognized south of the 49th parallel, even though noted US jazz writer Scott Yanow has written:”…I tend to think of altoist PJ Perry as Canada’s Sonny Stitt”. However in Canada, Perry has been fêted over the years with Juno Awards ( Canada’s Grammy) and recently (2016) the Order Of Canada, which is the country’s highest civilian honour for “his contribution to Canada’s musical repetoire as an accomplished jazz saxophonist”. So if you are wondering what the fuss is all about, his latest release Alto Gusto Live at the Yardbird Suite, will give you a taste of the boppish playing style of this highly regarded musician.

The choice of material for this live session, fits perfectly into Perry’s wheelhouse. With the accompaniment of three musicians from both Canada and the US, they provide a measure of empathy and inventiveness that spurs Perry’s scintillating improvisations.

Paul Chambers who was the bass player in Miles Davis’ first classic quintet, wrote “Ease It” that initially appeared in a 1959 Chamber’s recording on the Vee-Jay label with Cannonball Adderley entitled Just Friends. Pay particular to the opening sequence where Perry and bassist Steve Wallace shape the theme with some tricky unison playing.

John Hicks, who died in 2006, was bop-influenced pianist who was a leader on 30 or more of his own sessions, and was a side-man on more than 300 albums wrote “After The Morning”. The number has a compelling harmony and evocative chord extensions that allows the members of the band to search out all the nooks and crannies of the number. Bassist Wallace uses his declarative  tone to full effect, while pianist Jon Mayer shows he is capable of some intense improvisations. Perry, of course, is never shy about his exploratory talent.

Be-bop is the name of the game here and the final three tracks of this outing   epitomize the genre. Firstly there is Benny Golson’s “Stablemates”, then the Dizzy Gillespie/John Lewis number “Two Bass Hit” and finally Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo”. The Golson number was written in 1955 for three musicians, pianist Ray Santisi, trumpeter Herb Pomeroy and tenor saxophonist Varty Hartounian, each of  whom played at a Boston club called The Stable. It swings along in delicious fashion, filled with Perry’s celebratory assurance.

The two remaining compositions have a similar pedigree and are built with be-bop structures that allow Perry and his cohorts to develop an unrestrained approach to the material. Drummer Quincy Davis and bassist Wallace make the most of their interpretive opportunities on “Two Bass Hit”. On the final track, Perry’s chilled out phrasing and lovely tone informs his accomplished improvisations.

Ease it
Close Your Eyes
After The Morning
We’ll Be Together Again
Two Bass Hit

—Pierre Giroux