Julian Pressley

Steppin' Out

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Julian Pressley is a perfect example of a jazz musician who is better known locally than he is nationally. The alto saxman has been active on the Philadelphia/southern New Jersey jazz scene since the 1970s, but he isn't a big name outside of that area. After many years of sideman experience, Pressley made his recording debut as a leader with Steppin' Out in 1999. Joined by bassist Charles Fambrough (who produced the CD), pianist Bill O'Connell, and drummer Dave Brown, Pressley delivers a very conventional hard bop date -- one that plays it safe more often than not. The saxman picks a lot of standards that have been recorded countless times over the years (including such warhorses as "Like Someone in Love" and "Old Folks"), and he doesn't do anything out of the ordinary with them. However, he also embraces Freddie Redd's "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and Duke Pearson's "Chant," neither of which have been overdone -- and his likable performances of these bop tunes make listeners wish that he had surprises more often. Pressley has a lot going for him; he swings passionately, and he has a pleasing tone that underscores his appreciation of such Charlie Parker disciples as Jackie McLean, Cannonball Adderley, and Sonny Stitt. Plus, he's diverse -- Pressley has been employed by artists ranging from Sun Ra to the Dells. Nonetheless, he sells himself short by playing it so safe on this decent but very predictable CD.

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