Steve Grossman

Perspective

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For many, the electric jazz scene of the late '70s was a tired thing, steeped equally in fusion and disco. That was the common feeling at the time, though many groups like Weather Report were enjoying massive commercial success. In the 21st century, the conventional wisdom is being turned on its head by many of the beat collectors and younger jazz listeners encountering some of music of the era for the first time. Saxophonist Steve Grossman's Perspective is an excellent case in point. Released in 1979 on Atlantic, this set features the great tenor saxophonist in an electric setting with some killer sidemen including guitarist Buzzy Feiten, bassist Mark Egan, pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, drummer Steve Jordan, percussionists Sammy Figueroa, and Raphael Cruz. Guest players include the great Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, drummer Victor Lewis, guitarist Barry Finnerty, bassist Marcus Miller, and drummer Lenny White, to mention a few. These seven tracks are united by one thing: the enormous sound of Grossman's Sonny Rollins-meets-John Coltrane-influenced tone on tenor. While the record kicks off on the easy side of jazz-funk with "Creepin'," it contains some knotty acoustic piano from Gumbs and some tastefully elegant playing by Feiten. Grossman's stating of the theme is economical but emotive. The Latin groove that commences in the bridge is a surprise and moves the cut through his boisterous solo. "Arfonk" is on the edgier side of jazz-funk with a great breakbeat drum intro by White, who also does an impressive bit of counterpoint on the bongos. The fat guitars play call and response with Grossman, who gets up into the high register on the horn and lets loose against the simple riff. There are touches of fusion, but it never leaves the realm of jazz-funk entirely. Beautiful Fender Rhodes work by Gumbs adds rich color and texture, not to mention Egan's killer, popping bass work. "Pastel" features Kikuchi on acoustic piano, and this tune is pure, languid, gorgeous, communicative jazz with an excellent rapport in terms of lyricism between the pianist and Grossman. The set closes with the Eastern-cum-Latin-tinged "Katonah" with Finnertyon guitars, creating a wide palette of chord forms for Grossman to solo off of, eight bars from the intro. Egan is uncanny here on his bass, inventive and rhythmically guiding the entire band. The adrenaline-fueled breaks by Jordan as he double times Egan and Grossman are among the toughest of his long career. Ultimately, this set more closely resembles the work Grossman did with Stone Alliance than it does his later excellent Way Out East dates, but this set has stood the test of time remarkably well; its reissue on Wounded Bird in 2009 goes one step further in putting down the myth that electric jazz in the late '70s almost killed the music off in the days before Wynton Marsalis took it retro.

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