Eric Alexander

The Battle: Live at Smoke

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Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring pair up for two nights of fireworks at Smoke on this 2005 release. Unlike the various two-tenor battles that have appeared on numerous releases over the decades, the contrast provided by featuring two different reeds is easier on one's ears. The furious take of "Blues Up and Down" (penned by the two-tenor team of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt) is a long workout starting with Alexander's intense solo, though Herring provides a bit of humor, especially with a brief lick from Lester Young's "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid." Cedar Walton's "Firm Roots" also kicks up a few sparks. Drummer Carl Allen contributed the driving blues "Ritual Dance," which Alexander infuses with an unmistakable Coltrane stamp, while Herring takes the piece into a more soulful direction, adding a gritty texture at times. Pianist Mike LeDonne contributed the loping "Shirley's Song" and the intense post-bop vehicle "Eleven Years," which proves to be another exciting workout for the two saxophonists.

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