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All About Jazz - New York

"Quiz"
By Elliott Simon

Alexander McCabe’s rich alto sax meditates, bops and swings with an amazing consistency of tonal depth on this release that some might categorize as mainstream jazz. Don’t let that put you off, however, as McCabe’s mainstream has plenty of engaging twists, surprising turns and intensely raging rapids that he and his band of like-minded musicians navigate expertly and creatively.

Joining McCabe is pianist Uri Caine, whose presence adds substance and inventiveness to any project. Here, Caine doesn’t overpower but plays the solid sideman who at the perfect moments flashes effortless brilliance. He sets up the interesting pace and Brubeck feel to opener “Weezie’s Waltz” and, after a particularly intense and decorative alto solo on free-bopper “St. Kit”, matches McCabe’s creativity with fluid elegance.

Make no mistake though, McCabe is in charge and his playing is breathtaking. Bassist Ugonna Okegwo combines with drummer Rudy Royston to ground the tunes but they shine equally when adding coloration to the more contemplative pieces. Such is the case on an expansive version of the lovely “Good Morning Heartache”, opening and closing with a Trane-like meditation before it discovers breezy Latin grooves that provide an opportunity for Okegwo’s particularly
emotive solo. The captivating title cut has McCabe responding to the rhythm section’s propulsive questions with queries of a more plaintive sort. The final and very correct answer is offered thanks to Caine’s own pretty and fleet repartée.

Two of these seven tunes subs in drummer Greg Hutchinson and on these McCabe flies especially high. He ascends to capture a live late night sizzling blues on “Lonnegan” and soars through a wonderfully surprising “Kalido”. With his leadership skills, inventiveness and a passion not open to question, Alexander McCabe scores an A+ on this Quiz that
draws from numerous musical categories.

 

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