By Sari N. Kent

Alto saxophonist and composer Alexander McCabe’s latest CD, entitled Quiz, is the artist’s first new CD as a leader in five years. He is joined by pianist Uri Caine, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummers Greg Hutchinson and Rudy Royston. Recorded at Tedesco Studios in Paramus, N.J. on April 5, 2010 and at Leon Dorseys Studio in New York, N.Y. on Dec. 6, 2009, the tracks that this gifted quartet perform for listeners are a variety of slow beats, swing and good old-fashioned jazz rhythms. Yet, the melodies of some of the tracks might seem too similar to listeners, which might be a turn-off.

The opening track, entitled “Weezie’s Waltz,” is dedicated to McCabe’s niece. “It’s pretty and quirky, sort of like my niece,” McCabe says of the track. His evaluation of the song is spot on with peppy piano playing from Caine as well as Royston tapping playfully on the drums. Then, McCabe’s alto saxophone glides in ever so coolly. Jazz enthusiasts will notice that the track alternates between waltz time and 5/4 time. McCabe plays a delightfully danceable tune while Royston maintains a catchy drumming pulse in the background.

“Lonnegan,” the album’s second track,starts off with Caine’s lively piano work and Hutchinson’s bouncy drumming. McCabe’s alto saxophone enters with a scatting rhythm that only adds to the bubbly spirit of this track. Hutchinson’s drumming then takes center stage and gets noticeably feverish and Caine returns with his sprightly and rapid tickling of the ivories. McCabe suddenly bursts in with textbook jazz riffs while Hutchinson sustains his presence in the background.

The album’s title track begins with velvety and somewhat sad piano play from Caine and faint drumming from Royston. McCabe slips in with some soulful alto saxophone work and then out of the blue, the song’s tempo picks up and the song goes into full swing mode. Caine’s piano play becomes more exhilarating, Royston’s drumming more frenzied and McCabe starts blowing out medium to high tones with vigorous abandon.

“Good Morning Heartache,” the album’s fifth track, starts with low piano notes from Caine and drums from Royston. McCabe’s alto saxophone play is more subdued than on the previous track, but as before, he goes back to playing in a very excited manner. This recurrent sudden change in tempo might make listeners think this track is similar to the previous one, at least in composition, and become bored.

Quiz’s final track, entitled “How Little We Know,” begins like the previous track, with muted piano play from Caine and passive alto saxophone work from McCabe, while Royston quietly drums in the background. Again, listeners might think this track is like the earlier tracks on the album and stop listening.

In the end, Quiz, from Alexander McCabe, has some delightful tunes that will make listeners smile while others may find some of the tracks too alike and finish their Quiz early.


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