James Spaulding

Escapade

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    8
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Well-swung standards and compositions of Kenny Dorham, Dexter Gordon, Grant Green and Hank Mobley are tapped for revision. Don Sickler (trumpet/flugelhorn) joins Spaulding for eight of the ten tracks, with the immaculate trio of pianist John Hicks, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington as support. Spaulding's tart-sweet alto sax has never sounded better, while his pristine flute playing is easily in the top ten of late-'90s jazz performers. The CD is bookended by Dorham's music, the opening title track a flute/flugelhorn traipse through classic Blue Notesville in a light Afro-Cuban beat, the closer "La Mesha" a flute/flugel ballad. Mobley's music comes back to back, as jungle toms and light bluesy swing signify the easy mood of "High Modes," with flute and muted trumpet in unison, while the classic post-bop vehicle "The Breakthrough" has alto and trumpet strutting their stuff and puffing their chests. Gordon's similarly classic bopper "Cheesecake" has Sickler's flugelhorn playing a countermelody vis a vis Spaulding's standard alto line, and they do the same for the hip, churning melody of Grant Green's "Grant's Tune," except that Spaulding changes up on the tenor-led original by using his flute. The three numbers without Sickler are the scorching bop of "Just One of Those Things," the easy bossa beat of Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley," and the ballad treatment, on flute, of the final Mobley piece "Madeline." Spaulding shows a consistency within mainstream parameters, a real sense of teamwork with these worthy session mates, and a willingness to take chances.

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