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Saxophone Journal

April 2006
"The Round"

Alexander McCabe's debut CD release, The Round, is a compilation of a original music written mainly by McCabe, but also by other members of the group (i.e. two by Barbato and one by Johns). Joe Barbato plays piano and accordion, Ugonna Okegwo in on bass, and the drummer is Steve johns. The music itself is challenging, as well as creative, but is also accessible to the casual listener.

Originally from Boston, alto saxophonist, Alexander McCabe, has been part of the New york Scene for two decades. While his influences may be typical for a jazz saxophonist (e.g. Bird, Trane, and Cannonball, among others) he seems to have gone beyond the usual jazz apprenticeship, and has developed a unique voice of his own. Since coming to New York McCabe has studied with renowned saxophonist , George Coleman, and has worked as a sideman for Chico O'Farrill as well as Ray Charles. His other performance credits include work as a leader, performance on the film score of Tomorrow Never Dies (James Bond movie), as well as composing original soundtrack music for the file River of Grass.

The opening cut, Floating, is appropriately titled, as the melody and harmony are light sounding with accessible harmonies and a lilting melody in three. Solos by McCabe, pianist Barbato, and bassist Okegwo stay close to the feel and style, but include a bit more energy for momentum, especially by McCabe.

Taylor Made was written by pianist, Joe Barbato, and provides a similar accessibility in approach as the opening cut, but perhaps with a couple additional twists in the music. The melody is played by saxophone and piano before solos ensue with the saxophone first, the piano following, and then a drum solo by johns over a rhythmic vamp. Overall the performance maintains a sense of intensity, and never loses control of the underlying feel through out.

The title cut, The Round, features the ensemble but with Barbato on accordion instead of piano. The Melody of the The Round is inspired by traditional Irish music and is the basis for the collective improvisation between the accordion and the saxophone that occurs, in addition to a short accordion solo. While the rhythm section provides the support and foundation throughout out the tune, it is the interplay between the accordion and the saxophone that is the focus as they weave their lines in and out from one another. The overall sound is quite different and the performers work well together to keep it interesting and cohesive.

Village Walk is a ballad with a simple theme for its melody and solos are played with much rubato for a freer feeling, especially in the saxophone. The title, Village Walk, refers to the sights and sounds one would here while walking through Greenwich Villlage on a Sunday Afternoon with all the various street activities occurring, sometimes confused but often pleasant.

Jugo has a Latin feel, but incorporates a typical jazz melody and standard harmonies. McCabe's solo ahs much momentum and intensity as he works his way through the harmonic progression, while Barbato and Johns' solos are played effectively in a more subdued manner.

The last tune written by McCabe on the CD is Yours, a straight ahead blues with a riff-like melody and an up-tempo. Solos by Barbato and McCabe are allowed to deviate since Okegwo and Johns lock in very nicelyto maintain a strong underlying foundation for the soloists to explore their creativity.

Ensemble members Johns and Barbato wrote the final two tunes on the CD. A Cry From the Rain Forest by Johns is a relaxed bossa nova, and Salvo by Barbato is a relaxed funky vamp groove. Both compositions reflect the ensembles ability, as well as the individual musicians, to adapt to a musical situation and producing successful musical results of interest for the performer and he listener.

Mcabe's The Round is a nice collection of original compositions uniquely performed to the standard framework of mainstream jazz. McCabe successfully delivers listener accessibility and performer creativity on this CD.

 

 

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