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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Savant SCD 2081



1. Locke’s Vibe
2. I Waited for You
3. Bee Vamp
4. Skydive
5. Tell Me Why
6. Looking Ahead
7. Isfahan
8. Melody for Melonae
Wayne Escoffery - Tenor and soprano saxes
Joe Locke - Vibes
Hans Glawischnig - Bass
Lewis Nash - Drums

Wayne Escoffery was born in London but he is now established in New York, where he has played with the Mingus Big Band, Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet and the_ Tom Harrell Quintet. This CD, Wayne’s third as leader, was recorded last year at New York’s Smoke Club when Wayne was only 21.

The album opens with atmospherically echoey notes from Joe Locke’s vibes, as an introduction to I Waited for You, which brings in Wayne Escoffery who immediately stamps his authority on the music. His tone is forceful without being shrill and his playing has complete authority. In fact he rightly gets the lion’s share of the spotlight throughout this album, although Joe Locke also gets plenty of notice for his equally virtuosic and often startling vibes playing.

Bee Vamp is the first of two compositions by Booker Little on the CD (the other is Looking Ahead). It gives Wayne plenty of scope for fiery improvisation, spanning the whole range of the tenor sax. Joe Locke’s solo is likewise exciting, backed by dynamic rhythm from bass and drums. In fact “dynamic” is the word which would describe all the playing on this album. After stating the theme of Skydive, Wayne hardly stops to take a breath as he pours out huge swathes of notes.

For Tell Me Why, Wayne switches to soprano sax, where he seems just as comfortable as on tenor. It’s the only original by Escoffery on the CD. He wrote it when his mother and his wife were both having a hard time, and it captures sad, introverted emotions without giving in to them. Joe Locke is also thoughtful here, savouring the twists and turns of the theme. The gutsy Looking Ahead is notable for Escoffery’s straight-from-the-shoulder tenor and Lewis Nash’s drum solo which makes me smile at its technical bravado.

Isfahan brings a change of mood and pace, with Wayne making the Strayhorn-Ellington tune sound different from its original interpretation by Johnny Hodges: less lyrical and tender but just as eloquent. This track is simply a duet between Wayne and bassist Hans Glawischnig, who is a constant source of stability amongst all the unexpected turns taken by the three other players.

The album ends with Melody for Melonae, a composition by Escoffery’s teacher and mentor, Jackie McLean. It mixes a rather gloomy theme (underpinned by bowed bass) with some very adventurous solos from tenor sax and vibes. Joe Locke’s habit of humming along to his solos is particularly audible here, but it adds to the exhilaration.

I can thorougly recommend this album. At no point is this background music: it demands to be listened to. Wayne Escoffery is clearly a name to watch.

Tony Augarde


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