Bennie Wallace

In Berlin

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For decades, Bennie Wallace has performed with a hard-hitting, angular style all his own. Why his name is not associated with the giants of the horn is a mystery, as he has produced a body of work in the genre of hard bop that is equal to many of the better-known tenor saxophonists. This outstanding live recording is further evidence of Wallace's skills. The advantage over his studio sessions is that the tracks are longer, allowing the saxophonist to stretch at length. Combining a selection of familiar standards (a few Gershwin tunes plus Harold Arlen's "It's Only a Paper Moon") with a few originals, and adding an all-star rhythm section, Wallace delights with an uncommon exuberance that captures a tight, well-oiled quartet at the height of its abilities. Whether playing a ballad or an up-tempo burner, the saxophonist infuses his personality into every note. His trademark intervallic leaps are unforgettable, as is his gorgeous, big-toned Hawkins-derived sound. George Cables knows how to accompany saxophonists (he's been doing it successfully for years), and his solo work and supporting thrusts help make this the fine session it is. In the end, though, it is Wallace's show, and those who have not yet been introduced to his unique style should find this particularly fascinating.

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