Alex Harding

Freeflow

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Considering the impact of Harry Carney, Pepper Adams, and even Hamiet Blueitt, it is surprising how few others have made their mark on the baritone saxophone. Perhaps it is viewed as too cumbersome for students to choose, or perhaps it is simply a matter of the pervasive and much weightier influences of its tenor and alto cousins. The big, burly tone of Carney is an obvious influence on baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, who leads a pared-down trio through a generally delightful set of compelling pieces. The opening "Harmology," immersed in the vocabulary of hard bop, sets the path, but the album as a whole is not easy to pigeonhole. There are at least a couple of blues-related numbers, a spiritual, some free improvisation, and some free-form compositions. The saxophonist caresses a juicy sound from his horn, sometimes content to let its gorgeous tone hang clearly in the air like a puff of rich cream. Jimmy Weinstein wisely lays low on the drums (as does Chris Dahlgren on bass) to let the sax dominate. There is a sense that a piano might have added more depth, but as it is, there are pleasures galore just hearing Harding wail. On "Blues Diffusion," for example, he lets loose with an intensity that points to his potential. The saxophonist has the skills and the sound to make an important contribution on his horn, and this recording, while not his breakthrough, is an important step along the way.

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