Over the dozen years since his debut recording as a leader, Eric Alexander has developed into one of the most important tenor saxophonists of his generation. Joined once again by one of his favorite pianists, Harold Mabern, along with bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth, Alexander kicks off this studio affair with a gritty hard bop treatment of "Where or When." "It's All in the Game" dates from the early part of the 20th century (written by future Vice President Charles Dawes), yet this is hardly a dated melody, as Alexander gives his best with a lush ballad treatment, while Mabern (who suggested the tune) incorporates subtle hints of gospel into his provocative solo. Thelonious Monk's "Ruby, My Dear" is revamped with a delightful brisk setting, while a Latin-flavored arrangement of the R&B hit "Where Is the Love" also transforms it into something new. Alexander's originals are equally enjoyable. "Typhoon 11" mixes a samba flavor with post-bop, with Mabern sounding at times like McCoy Tyner, while the tense blues "Open and Shut" would have been a perfect contribution to the repertoire of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Eric Alexander is a clear winner with It's All in the Game.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden