Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Eric Alexander, Timing is Everything, Cellar Live ***1/2

Eric Alexander makes even his fellow countryman Scott Hamilton seem avant-garde - but riffing on Lady Day's take on 'Ill Wind' ''the good wind who is blowing us no ill,'' as Leonard Feather quipped about Hamilton, the phrase then used as the title …

Published: 6 Jun 2024. Updated: 44 days.

Eric Alexander makes even his fellow countryman Scott Hamilton seem avant-garde - but riffing on Lady Day's take on 'Ill Wind' ''the good wind who is blowing us no ill,'' as Leonard Feather quipped about Hamilton, the phrase then used as the title of his 1977 debut, speaks to us more personally and his dogged approach makes sense at a deep primeval, no longer fogey-ish, and emotional level more with us.

On the UK and Irish scene the closest player to come close to Alexander is English-Irish player Dave O'Higgins although we do prefer his Hig(h)ness' all-round approach and timbral individualism to the creamier Alexander sound particularly on a fairly recent classic of the O's such as O'Higgins and Luft Play Monk and Trane.

So much for the chitchat. To cut to the chase what's here is like that super O'Higgins record mentioned above a comfort blanket of a listen - the tunes come first delivered so accurately and with feeling. Obscurantism is banished. And how could you not like an album with Roland Kirk's 'Serenade to a Cuckoo' on it? No cuckoo clock was harmed or indeed appears in the making of the album. The flute feature on it is by Jed Paradies but could be a bit more out there than it is. Better-known players on the album include pianist Rick Germanson and that fine bassist Alexander Claffy - who made a great contribution on 2014 JD Allen classic Bloom. And it's Jason Tiemann on drums. There's a very good vocal from Alma Micic on 'Evergreen' that lands very much in the Barbra Streisand mould.

Duetting conversationally with Alexander - the saxophone, close your eyes becomes a voice itself - on the Paul Williams/Streisand classic it's the best thing on the record by a mile. Middle of the road and soppy certainly - in a good way - tunes are fairly well selected although there are too many versions of 'Misty' around at the moment. Get Laufey on speed dial to talk about this if you must however coincidental the choice given that the singer kind of ''owns'' the Erroll Garner classic these days. US player Alexander is a master of his instrument and to his many, many fans CAN DO NO WRONG. Nobody's bubble is burst here you may be relieved to know. And sonics are exemplary if you are an audiophile head and is refreshing given so many albums these days sound as if they were recorded on an iPhone stood in a bus shelter - not this, the album was laid down in April last year where A Love Supreme was created. The sound engineering by the legendary Maureen Sickler faithful to Rudy - like a message to you - sounds perfect for the Alexander approach in the most revered jazz recording studio shrine after all on the planet, fact, Van Gelder's in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Tags: NEW in reviews

Jazz vocals and overall album of the week: Jo Harrop, The Path of a Tear, Lateralize ****

Cherry pick ruthlessly for maximum enjoyment. But quality albums such as The Path of a Tear only come along once in a blue moon. In addition to 'Beautiful Fools' there's another Jo Harrop/Ian Barter co-write on the album which is significant given …

Published: 6 Jun 2024. Updated: 41 days.

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Cherry pick ruthlessly for maximum enjoyment. But quality albums such as The Path of a Tear only come along once in a blue moon. In addition to 'Beautiful Fools' there's another Jo Harrop/Ian Barter co-write on the album which is significant given that Barter gelled so well with Chester-Le-Street's finest on the initial single - the other song that they worked on is called 'Stay Here Tonight'. Ian played guitar on Amy Winehouse album Frank and wrote the lyrics and co-produced Dermot Kennedy's glorious 'Couldn't Tell.'

Produced by Larry Klein in the States and who has also delivered up the excellent recent Tutu Puoane album Wrapped in Rhythm Vol 1 and who also plays bass guitar on The Path of a Tear - the title track song itself is a Jo & Greg Soussan co-write. Input from another jazz musician from County Durham is pianist Paul Edis who has worked with Jo extensively. The twinkling Paul's input to 'Never Lonely in Soho' works well. And this is where erstwhile Diana Krall jazz guitar legend Anthony Wilson is so perfect. The location of the song, familiar to many habitués of Soho jazz clubs is at the heart of the jazz village on the corner of Old Compton Street and Greek Street. Champagne for breakfast on a Monday morning… all dressed up in your Sunday best… the cleverness in the lyrics is the commentary that muses on the ''charade'' of the all-consuming bohemian lifestyle because ''nothing is entirely what it seems.''

The album covers are Leonard Cohen's 'Traveling Light' - it's on You Want It Darker; the Elton John and Leon Russell gem 'If It Wasn't For Bad' is also a significant presence of the Lateralize release. And just as well chosen - from 'The Galway Girl' writer Steve Earle - 'Goodbye' from the mid-1990s covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Curtis Stigers since makes it on. The drummer-percussionist on the album is sessioneer Victor Indrizzo whose rolling 1-2-slam of the cymbal-3 beat fill at the beginning of 'Traveling Light' is super tasty; Jim Cox is on keys and the double bassist is David Piltch who is on a range of notable k. d. lang recordings particularly k. d.'s spinetingling homage to Canada - Hymns of the 49th Parallel.