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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Live at the Cellar

Cellar Live CL 000726



1. Spring is Here
2. Illusions in Blue
3. Blue and Boogie
4. How Deep is the Ocean
5. Manhattan Nocturne
6. Star Eyes

Charles McPherson - Alto sax
Ross Taggart - Piano
Jodi Proznick - Bass
Blaine Wikjord - Drums


Charles McPherson is best known fotr his work with Charles Mingus, although he has also played with the likes of Barry Harris, Tom Harrell and Billy Higgins. I think this album was recorded in 2002 (although the sleeve-note says mysteriously "Recorded on July 26th and 27th") in Canada - at the Cellar Club in Vancouver - with a local rhythm section.

McPherson might be called a disciple of Charlie Parker, although his early devotion to Johnny Hodges gave him a more accessible tone on the alto sax. The mixture of influences from Mingus, Parker and Hodges produced a saxophonist who could play both fiercely and lyrically. McPherson is an improviser who keeps you aware of the melody, while at the same time capable of producing the sort of "sheets of sound" that John Coltrane was famous for. The repertoire consists of four jazz standards, plus two originals by McPherson (Illusions in Blue and Manhattan Nocturne).

None of the six tracks lasts for less than ten minuites, allowing Charles to stretch out on every number, while giving the excellent rhythm section their chance to shine. Although his accompanists are local musicians (not jazz celebrities), they fulfil their role admirably, and Ross Taggart in particular plays some fine solos. Taggart's mostly gentle solos contrast effectively with McPherson's more dynamic work.

Most of the attention inevitably focuses on McPherson's frequently mind-blowing inventions. Even in well-worn tunes, he creates something fresh with his daring and his ability to move across barlines. If you want excitement mixed with musicianship, you will throroughly enjoy this album, as I did.

Tony Augarde

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