Roland Alexander

Pleasure Bent

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In 1961, John Coltrane was totally immersed in modal post-bop. The seminal saxman had left hard bop behind, and he continued to be modal-oriented until 1965 (when he went atonal and got into some truly blistering free jazz). But even though Coltrane himself said goodbye to hard bop in 1960, not all of his admirers did. Take Roland Alexander, for example. Although the tenor saxman's Coltrane-influenced debut album, Pleasure Bent, was recorded in 1961, this vinyl LP has more in common with the bop-oriented Coltrane of the mid- to late '50s. Pleasure Bent has a recording date of June 17, 1961, but it might as well be 1957 or 1958 because Alexander doesn't acknowledge the modal sounds that 'Trane was providing that year. Rather, Pleasure Bent brings to mind Coltrane's bop-oriented sessions for Prestige, such as Black Pearls, Bahia, Lush Life, and Settin' the Pace -- the influence of pre-Atlantic Coltrane is hard to miss on Alexander originals like "Dorman Road," "Orders to Take Out," "Lil's Blues," and the title track. It is also quite strong on the Alec Wilder ballad "I'll Be Around" (not to be confused with the Spinners' early-'70s hit). That isn't to say that Alexander is a flat-out clone of Coltrane -- he was also influenced by Sonny Rollins and other hard boppers -- but there is no denying that Coltrane's playing is a strong influence on this record, which employs Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Ronnie Mathews on piano, Gene Taylor on bass, and Clarence "Scoby" Stroman on drums. However, Alexander wasn't a myopic bop snob who hated any form of jazz that came along after 1959; in fact, he went on to explore avant-garde jazz. But his roots were hard bop, and hard bop is exactly what he plays on this decent, if derivative, LP.

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