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Alexander McCabe - "Quiz"
By Tim Niland

Alexander McCabe is a rising alto saxophonist on the jazz scene, gaining experience in the big bands of Ray Charles and Chico O'Farril before striking out on his own as a small group leader. McCabe is joined on this album by Uri Caine on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and either Rudy Royston or Greg Hutchinson on drums. The music has a nice straight ahead swinging feel, grounded in bebop and hardbop but amenable some experimenting as well. Led off by "Weezie's Waltz" the music has a gentle swinging feel, with mild and accessible saxophone playing a lilting melody. The standard "Good Morning Heartache" is the centerpiece of the album and it is a fascinating performance as McCabe uses a rougher and earthier tone that references mid-60's John Coltrane in the exploratory patches of the performance that bookend a swinging and melodic middle section. This makes for some excellent dynamic tension and a powerful performance. "Lonnegan" has an uptempo boppish feel, with tart tongued saxophone and a rippling piano trio section. McCabe digs in deep for a powerful solo, building into a section where he trades curt phrases with Hutchinson. "Kalido" fast paced builds back to mid-tempo swing. McCabe develops a questing solo over solid accompaniment, then lays out for a nice bass and drum interlude with piano comping. "Quiz" probes the musical environment developing into a fast powerful saxophone centered improvisation dropping back for a calmer piano, bass and drums interlude. "St. Pat" has a spry and nimble melody opening to a deeply toned saxophone solo, building very fast and furious. Rippling fast piano keeps the pace fresh, making way for a thick and strong bass solo. "How Little We Know" opens as a mid-tempo swinging tune, a light and nimble swinger there is a nice, full bodied mid tempo piano trio improvisation, that keeps the mood flowing well. This was a very solid and consistently well played album. The musicians flirt with open ended settings and some closed swing patters, but for the most part drive wright down the middle of modern mainstream jazz, making their own statement and sounding good doing it.

 

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