1.The Decathexis From Youth (For Cole)
3.Spring Is Here
6.I Should Care
Charles McPherson (alto saxophone), Keith Oxman (tenor saxophone), Chip Stephens (piano), Ken Walker (bass), Todd Reid (drums)
rec. April/May, 2014
CAPRI RECORDS CAPRI 74136-2
You would expect anyone who played with Charles Mingus for 12 years (1960-72) to be a great musician and you’d be right and Charles McPherson is just that.
With 24 recordings as leader plus 16 others as a sideman, including 6 with Mingus this alto sax player is a true giant of jazz. On this, his latest CD
release, there is not a single dull moment as he leads this fabulous quintet as they play a selection of originals by Charles, Chip Stephens and Keith
Oxman as well as three standards by Rodgers & Hart, Charlie Parker and Sammy Cahn making for a perfectly balanced programme. Helping to run a jazz club
in my town we always try to encourage the bands we engage to play some standards because, apart from the fact that audiences like hearing some material
they recognise it also helps them get a grip on what the band does with the standard and therefore what they’re really about. Invariably it is the
older and more experienced that appreciate that idea and many don’t require asking while the young bucks often make the mistake of having the attitude of
“We don’t do standards, only originals” and as a result often misread the audience’s reaction, failing to pick up any negative vibes.
Of course as you might also expect these originals are marvellous having been written by three highly talented and experienced musicians who have been
honing their talent over many years. Pianist John ‘Chip’ Stephens is Associate Professor of Jazz Piano & Jazz Studies at the University of
Illinois and can be heard on over 70 records, while Keith Oxley has played with the likes of Buddy Rich, Sonny Stitt and Art Blakey and is a highly
respected teacher at a high school. The rhythm section in the shape of Ken Walker and Todd Reid are also no slouches with Ken a member of the music faculty
at the University of Denver while Todd, another Denver resident and on the same University staff has played with such giants as Gerry Mulligan and Red
Holloway and can be heard on 17 discs.
All this considerable talent is in evidence on this highly enjoyable disc on which it is difficult to pick a favourite as my favourite was whatever was
playing at the time! However, for those who like their sax to soar and dive then Chip Stephens’ composition The Decathexis From Youth will give
much pleasure before Chip’s piano takes over to nicely round it off. Keith Oxman’s Tami’s Tune shows his prowess in the compositional stakes as
well as his rich, smooth and hugely melodious sound while Charles McPherson’s Bud Like is a fast paced truly enjoyable number. The three standards
are treated with care and interpreted with an attention to detail that brings out the best of these wonderful pieces with some particularly brilliant
moments in Rodgers & Hart’s Spring is Here and Charlie Parker’s Au Privave. Sammy Cahn’s I Should Care is given the duo
treatment with McPherson and Chip Stephens doing the honours and very beautifully too. If like me you enjoy straight ahead no nonsense jazz that knows
where it’s going and makes the journey a real treat then you’re going to love this disc.
See also review by Tony Augarde