Alexander McCabe: "Quiz"
By Stephan Moore
Alexader McCabe has been on the scene since the mid-eighties. You may not know the name but you more than likely have heard his big, bold alto on records by the Chico O'Farril Afro-Cuban Big Band. He has rich, fiery tone in manner of John Coltrane or Branford Marsalis that lights many of the tracks on only his second album as leader, Quiz.
Quiz opens with two wonderful numbers "Weezies Waltz," and "Lonnegan", both of originals written by McCabe. Each track features two different drums which provides an interesting background for the interplay between all of members. "Weezies Waltz" is more laid back with some delicate timing from Hutchinson and great accompaniment from Caine and Okegwo. This a beautiful opening piece.
"Lonnegan" is a blistering number with some superb interchanges between Caine and McCabe but also some surefire rolling beats from Royston. Both tracks show a nice depth in McCabe's writing and solid mastery on the sax. It's bewildering that Alexander McCabe has only recorded two albums as leader.
Mentioning Coltrane's name in this piece may seem a little strange but there is some serious work going on here and you have to acknowledge that McCabe has studied and mastered his craft extremely well. There are moments on the title piece "Quiz" that I am left mesmerized by how powerful his performance is. "Quiz" also features some excellent work from the always fantastic Uri Caine as he translates McCabes notes into a truly beauty storyline.
"Good Morning Heartache" has shades of 'Trane written all over it. This is probably the most adventurous track on the album but demonstrates the perfect balance of "out there" and "accessible" you'll hear in one track all year. The band is in fine form and this is one of many shinning moments on Quiz. Closing out the session is the under-rated standard "How Little We Know" which is sound wonderful in the hands of McCabe and his quartet. A very laid back piece that bookends the Quiz perfectly with some quiet, romantic yet still buoyant individual performances. This is a number which if heard in the club setting will probably bring the audience to its knees.
Alexander McCabe's Quiz is a brilliant piece of work from a musician who has spent too much time on the sidelines so-to-speak. I hope this is his coming out party. Another one of those albums this year that if you are serious about jazz (either new fan or old jazz head) you should check it out. Lot's of surprises are in store. Recommended.
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