Eric Alexander

Nightlife in Tokyo

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First off, while its title might suggest otherwise, this is not a live album; the CD takes its name from a piece by Eric Alexander's pianist, the veteran Harold Mabern. This is a fitting gesture, as Mabern is a key to this session's many pleasures and has been a mentor to Alexander during the saxophonist's steady rise to the top ranks of his art form. For this December 2002 session, Alexander offers a sustained program of fresh, creative, and advanced hard bop that unequivocally establishes him as a player who is not only fully aware of the tradition, but who is now among those most eminently qualified to develop it further. The consistent high quality of the outing is, naturally, a measure of the cohesion and communication within Alexander's crack quartet. Mabern fuels the performances with a driving, spacious melodicism. Drummer Joe Farnsworth, another Alexander regular, combines crisp precision and flawless creative instincts behind the drum kit. To the session's credit, bassist Ron Carter is not on hand as a special guest, but as a completely integrated member of the rhythm team. He combines especially well with Farnsworth, with playing that is agile, powerful, rich, and vivid. Alexander is a source of endlessly imaginative choruses. Listeners will detect some of George Coleman's incendiary sleight of hand, Wayne Shorter's sidelong phrasing, and Joe Henderson's trenchant, amiable authority in the leader's highly evolved command of the horn. They will also hear Alexander's talent for writing; the five memorable hard bop originals he presents here are destined to become modern classics.

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