Steve Houghton

Live at the Senator

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Recorded in Toronto, this live outing has tenor saxophonist Pat La Barbera in superb form, playing several powerful solos that are on the level of a Don Menza or Pete Christlieb. He shares the front line with trumpeter Clay Jenkins while drummer Steve Houghton leads a rhythm section also including pianist Harold Danko and bassist Neil Swainson. Other than "Monk's Dream" and "Old Folks," the program consists of obscurities by Wayne Shorter ("Chief Crazy Horse"), Woody Shaw, Bobby Timmons ("Damned If I Know"), and Ron Carter, plus Jenkins' "Always With You." Carter's opening "Einbahn Strasse" sounds like the chord changes of "I Got Rhythm," until one notices that the bridge is only four bars (rather than eight), resulting in 28-bar choruses rather than the excepted 32. The other tunes all have their challenging aspects, but the top-notch musicians show no hesitancy in their confident and creative solos. Jenkins and Danko show that they are among the most underrated jazz players around today, while Swainson and Houghton keep the music quite stimulating. But La Barbera definitely steals the show, and his contributions by themselves would make this a highly recommended disc.

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