Don Houge Quintet

The Eternal Now

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In the '40s and '50s, bebop and hard bop saxmen could be incredibly competitive -- jazz fans still love to reminisce about the Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons, Phil Woods/Gene Quill, and Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray saxophone battles, much like a baseball fan will carry on about who battled who in the World Series. But in the '60s, a very different mentality defined post-bop and avant-garde jazz. The breakthroughs of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter, and Ornette Coleman were about spirituality, not competition or musical sportsmanship; in fact, their probing explorations were often the jazz equivalent of religious Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Buddhist music. A title like The Eternal Now indicates that Don Houge favors the spiritual approach to jazz saxophone playing, and sure enough, post-bop items like "Tears for Far Away," "Out of Kilter," and "Side Effects" are right out of the Coltrane/Shorter school of jazz spirituality. This isn't to say that the tenor and soprano saxman is a stranger to the concept of competition -- he earned a living as a football coach before moving to Boston in the hope of playing music full-time -- but on this CD (which was his second as a leader), Houge's outlook is spiritual rather than competitive. Joined by pianist Consuelo Candelaria, guitarist Kevin Barry, bassist Michael Rivard, and drummer Jay Bellerose, the improviser detours into fusion on the Michael Brecker-ish "Step on It" but makes acoustic-oriented post-bop the album's main focus. Not fantastic or groundbreaking, but generally enjoyable, The Eternal Now indicated that Houge was worth keeping an eye on.

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