Monday, April 16, 2018

Reeds and Deeds - Third Time's The Charm

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


"We have similar concepts," he says, "but at the same time they're different.  Eric has all the things that I lack; and I might have something that isn't in his playing, and that complements his playing. And for that reason it's not really a cutting session.  It's almost like apples and oranges, which is nice because a lot of times cats end up playing so similar."

"We have a lot of similar influences," Grant offers. "Eric has more of a certain period of Trane in his playing, and a heavy George Coleman influence. I have a heavy Sonny Rollins influence. But we were both influenced by Dexter and Stitt and Bird." Alexander concurs and adds more wrinkles: "We are both coming out of the bebop language, but Grant from the Hawkins/Rollins side and I'm more from the Young/Gordon/ Coltrane side. Grant is more likely to make use of quotes and motivic development and I'm more likely to play some things that one would associate with modal and free jazz."

"I think our styles are so different that it's not as much of a cutting session as it could be," explains Stewart. "Eric definitely raises the bar pretty high and we're definitely trying to push one another to play better. We're coming out of some of the same people more or less, but we think differently. [Still,] there are enough similarities that we get a cohesive sound, but we're different enough that it's still interesting." As for Alexander, while the camaraderie is an obvious factor in making this kind of situation musically stimulating, he also admits to some healthy rivalry. "When you're going head to head," Eric affirms, "you've really got to jump all over the tunes or else you sound like you're getting blown away by the other cat."

Would you be surprised to learn that the title of this piece has three meanings?

The first and most obvious is that to date, the Reeds and Deeds quintet that tenor saxophonists Eric Alexander and Grant Stewart formed in 2004 has made three recordings, all for the Criss Cross label.

The second is that it was in the third CD that I found the key description to distinguish what was different about the styles of each player to differentiate them beyond the two tenor pairings that date back to Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray who were followed by Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Johnny Griffin, and in England with Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes.

What I was hearing in Eric and Grant’s performance on the Reeds and Deeds CDs were the influences of the two major tenor saxophone stylists of the second half of the 20th century - Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane - but I didn’t know how to differentiate them until I came across this description in the insert notes to Tenor Time, their third CD:

"We have a lot of similar influences," Grant offers. "Eric has more of a certain period of Trane in his playing, and a heavy George Coleman influence. I have a heavy Sonny Rollins influence. But we were both influenced by Dexter and Stitt and Bird." Alexander concurs and adds more wrinkles: "We are both coming out of the bebop language, but Grant from the Hawkins/Rollins side and I'm more from the Young/Gordon/ Coltrane side. Grant is more likely to make use of quotes and motivic development and I'm more likely to play some things that one would associate with modal and free jazz."

And the third “three meaning” implied in the title of this posting, besides the two principals, pianist David Hazeltine is a constant “secret source” on all three recordings despite the bass and drums changes from Peter and Kenny Washington on the first CD - Wailin’ - to John Webber and Joe Farnsworth on the second and third CDs - Cookin’ and Tenor Time - respectively.

If you like your Jazz in the straight-ahead mode with cleverly constructed arrangements of Jazz Standards and tunes from The Great American Songbook, brilliantly developed tenor sax improvisations, underscored by a pianist who accompanies with sensitivity while suggested interesting harmonic alternatives, all of which is propelled by two ever-swinging rhythm sections, then I urge you to buy these recordings by Reeds and Deeds.

Some of the other reasons why you might enjoy these recording are suggested in the insert notes to each of them authored by very knowledgeable Jazz writers so I’ve included them in their entirety to further make my case.

Incidentally, the group takes its name from a 1963 Rahsaan Roland Kirk recording for Mercury Records.

And lastly, was is singularly impressive about the work of Reeds and Deeds is on these recordings is well-stated in the following excerpt from C. Andrew Hovan’s notes to Cookin’, the group’s second recording for Criss Cross:

Although the program here does not include any originals, Alexander and Stewart have managed to dig deep for an agreeable selection that includes bossa nova, quicksilver bebop, the blues lexicon, and a ballad feature for both tenor men. Each number goes for a particular feel and utilizes the two horns in a way that most complements the melody. The pair approaches unison passages with an especially well-developed precision, the technical proficiency needed to accomplish such a feat not to be taken for granted. Like the ideal club set, much thought has been given to the pacing and flow of each track with plenty of blowing space for Stewart, Alexander, and Hazeltine to boot.


Wailin' [Criss Cross 1258] David A. Orthmann allaboutjazz.com

“The Criss Cross Jazz imprint has earned an enviable reputation for producing a substantial body of recorded music by a cadre of gifted youthful players.  Producer Gerry Teekens resides thousands of miles from the music's ferment in the New York City area, yet he stays in the loop and seldom misses the chance to record new and novel configurations of his longtime charges.

Moreover, despite the fact that the label generally stays inside the stylistic parameters of the modern jazz mainstream, there's nothing staid or predictable about the steady stream of Criss Cross releases.

Teekens shuns marketable formulas (like trendy theme records, or superficial tributes to venerable figures in the jazz pantheon) in favor of catching these vital musicians doing what they do best in the here and now. The label's artists share a willingness to explore the jazz tradition, as well as an insistence on establishing their own identities.

A case in point is Wailin' by Reeds and Deeds, a new quintet co-led by tenor saxophonists Eric Alexander and Grant Stewart. A rising international star who frequently tours with his band throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan, Alexander has appeared on dozens of Criss Cross sessions, as a leader and sideman, as well as in the cooperative sextet One For All.

Stewart is a fixture in New York City clubs like Fat Cat and Kavahaz, and regularly plays in Europe and Japan.  He made his debut recording, Downtown Sounds, for the label in the early-1990s at the age of twenty-one, and followed a few years later with More Urban Tones.

Not unlike many successful Criss Cross releases, the impetus for Wailin' came from the musicians' live performances.  Last year Alexander and Stewart played an engagement in Philadelphia at Chris’ Jazz Cafe. Trumpeter John Swana a Criss Cross artist and mutual friend "came down and sat in, and it was a lot of fun," Stewart recalls.  "It was a real free, blowing gig." One of Alexander's students made a bootleg and gave it to Swana, who liked it so much he promptly sent it to Teekens. After receiving the tape, Teekens (who had already heard about the gig) proposed a two-tenor recording.

Pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation), make up an ideal rhythm section.  Rapidly moving into the elite of New York City jazz circles, Hazeltine is equally valued as a composer, arranger, and accompanist. Aside from the five sessions he's led for the label, Hazeltine's talents have graced numerous other Criss Cross sides, such as Alexander's Two Of A Kind, and [the sextet] One For All's five releases, including the recent Blueslike, named after one of his compositions.

Peter and Kenny Washington are the premier bass and drums team in jazz.  Able to handle all manner of grooves and change direction on a moment's notice, they're best known for playing in the trio of pianist Bill Charlap. Together and separately Peter and Kenny have worked on scores of Criss Cross dates. In particular, they lit a fire under Alexander's seminal New York Calling, and were essential to the success of Stewart's Downtown Sounds.

Because of the players' familiarity and mutual respect for one another, Wailin' impresses the listener as a recording of a real band with a two-tenor front line, rather than a series of jousts between two hard-blowing, egotistical players. One reason for this temperance, Stewart suggests, is the differences between his and Alexander's approach to the instrument. "We have similar concepts," he says, "but at the same time they're different.  Eric has all the things that I lack; and I might have something that isn't in his playing, and that complements his playing. And for that reason it's not really a cutting session. It's almost like apples and oranges, which is nice because a lot of times cats end up playing so similar."

Busy and conflicting schedules prevented extensive preparation for the date. After Alexander and Stewart made decisions regarding the material, rehearsals consisted of a single session with Stewart and the rhythm section while Alexander was out of town, and a hour-long run through of the tunes by the two horns on the day before the recording, during which they came up with ideas for arrangements. Despite the limited practice, the band sounds tight and focused. In particular, the blend of Alexander and Stewart's saxophones is smooth on the medium tempo tracks, and they handle a couple of jagged, up-tempo heads as if having played the lines together for years.

Somewhere In The Night is a Billy May composition, which served as the theme for the classic 1960s television show, Naked City.  Stewart and Alexander agreed to do this one after it fortuitously "just kind of popped out" of a folder of lead sheets. Kenny Washington's brushes keep things moving beneath the horns' rendering of May's elegant melody, and he switches to sticks for solos by Alexander, Stewart, and Hazeltine. Alexander displays his trademark long spiraling phrases and alterations in timbre, while Stewart stays closer to the ground, at times pausing to reflect on portions of May's song.

Dedicated to [guitarist] Pat Martino, Alexander's up-tempo Stand Pat originally appeared several years ago on his recording for Milestone that featured the venerable guitarist. While Peter Washington locks in a steady pulse, Hazeltine, Stewart, and Alexander each take four choruses. Stewart is particularly memorable as he roars through 16 bars while the rhythm section goes out of tempo.  Before the whole band returns, Kenny Washington sounds positively punchy in a series of eight bar exchanges with the horns.

Big RC is a swaggering blues from the pen of Eric Alexander. Riding Hazeltine's penetrating support, the composer's 6 choruses have an epic feel as he weaves together sounds ranging from whispers to thickset banshee wails.  After Hazeltine and Stewart take their turns, Peter Washington enters for one of his two solos on the recording, an introverted meander that's in sharp contrast to everything that went before.

Mel Torme and Robert Wells' Born To Be Blue is Stewart's ballad feature. "When I was a kid, my father wrote out a fake book of all the great standards," Stewart explains. "And that was one of the tunes we used to go through as part of my practice routine." Regarding his approach to ballads, Stewart says "my thing is to try to sing it like a song and make the melody a showcase for my sound. The improvising is more for the solo, and I try to always keep the melody in mind."

Stewart and Alexander employed a standard arrangement of That's Earl, Brother, Dizzy Gillespie's beguiling bebop tune from the mid-1940s. The two saxophonists and Hazeltine find the changes and the medium tempo to their liking, each taking two choruses.  Inspired by Hazeltine's knowing accompaniment and Kenny Washington's pithy accents, Stewart's ideas travel far and wide, ranging from song-like phrases, to brief declarations, to expansive, rapid fire lines. The horns trade fours with Kenny Washington before the band takes the theme out.

Taken at a punishing pace reminiscent of John Coltrane's version on his near-classic Soultrane recording, the band's rendition of Irving Berlin's Russian Lullaby is the closest thing to a tenor battle on the disc. The co-leaders collectively came up with the arrangement, "including this little tag thing we did at the end," Stewart says. Though they did a few takes in order to get one in which "we were both relatively happy with our solos at that tempo," slowing down the pace was out of the question. "We like to drive fast."

Alexander's ballad interpretation breathes new life into Johnny Mandel and Paul F. Webster's warhorse, The Shadow Of Your Smile.  His short rubato introduction is somewhat isolated from the song. The rhythm section joins in for Alexander's lovely, reflective version of the melody. The improvisation that follows is of a somewhat different character, buzzing with activity and
containing digressions galore, yet he never completely strays from the song's melancholy disposition.

Stewart originally wrote Scotch Thing for a recording made in 1998, in which he was the sole horn.  Having conceived of the piece for two horns, Stewart decided to revisit the tune. "I always write stuff that's not really conducive to improvising," he says. "It's kind of a long form. I like the way it sounds but when you get to the blowing it's tricky to play on." Despite his reservations, both Stewart and Alexander negotiate the changes with ease and have something substantial to say throughout their solos.

Reeds and Deeds has succeeded in making a recording that's greater than the sum of the individual contributions. Taking into consideration various other studio projects and live performances over the past few years, as well as Wailin', I believe the best is yet to come.  It's clear that each of these artists thrives on challenging themselves and their audiences. For Alexander, Stewart, Hazeltine, Peter and Kenny Washington, playing jazz in the company of musicians of the same stature is much more than a means of making a living—it's a way of life.”


Cookin' [Chris Cross 1283] C. Andrew Hovan, All About Jazz, The Jazz Review, Downbeat,  August 2006

“Chances are that if you're reading these notes right now you're more than a bit familiar with the talents of tenor saxophonists Eric Alexander and Grant Stewart and might even have picked up Wailin' (Criss 1258), their first effort together leading a quintet billed as Reeds and Deeds. As such, it would probably be redundant to go into detailed biographical sketches of each of these men. Suffice it to say that Alexander just might be one of the most recorded jazz musicians of his generation, appearing on an impressive number of albums since making his debut on Criss Cross back in 1993, regularly leading his own groups, and remaining a vital member of the hard bop collective One For All. Stewart, who also recorded his maiden voyage for Criss Cross, may not be as thoroughly documented on recordings but remains an in demand performer in New York City and a regular at Fat Cat and Smalls.

So with the credentials of our two leading men well defined, it might be interesting to ponder the lineage of the quintet's moniker and the titles of their two discs. For starters, Reeds and Deeds also names a 1963 album on Mercury Records by multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, a recording that just so happens to feature pianist Harold Mabern, a regular collaborator in groups led by Alexander. Now, with album titles like Wailin' and Cookin' there's more than a tip of the hat to those classic 1956 recordings by the Miles Davis Quintet that led to a series of Prestige releases, namely Workin', Steamin', Cookin', and Relaxin'. Finally, one must consider that this pair follows in the footsteps of other iconic two tenor cohorts such as Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons or Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin.

Now while this modest lesson suggests that these guys have done their homework, it should not be considered a foregone conclusion that the group is simply rehashing previous glories or engaging in the kind of cutting contests that were so popular in the '50s. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Alexander and Stewart have fashioned a collaborative ensemble that benefits strongly from the combined efforts and varied experiences of our front line partners.

"I think our styles are so different that it's not as much of a cutting session as it could be," explains Stewart. "Eric definitely raises the bar pretty high and we're definitely trying to push one another to play better. We're coming out of some of the same people more or less, but we think differently. [Still,] there are enough similarities that we get a cohesive sound, but we're different enough that it's still interesting." As for Alexander, while the camaraderie is an obvious factor in making this kind of situation musically stimulating, he also admits to some healthy rivalry. "When you're going head to head," Eric affirms, "you've really got to jump all over the tunes or else you sound like you're getting blown away by the other cat."

Returning from the group's first effort is pianist David Hazeltine, a veteran of many Criss Cross dates and leader of a half dozen sessions of his own for the label including the recent Perambulation (Criss 1276). "He's a great accompanist and he's always listening," says Stewart. "It's one of those things where you know someone is a great accompanist when you play better when they're comping." Further commenting on Hazeltine's many talents, Alexander interjects, "He's a fine composer and arranger and he brings that kind of structure to every musical situation."

Another lock tight rhythm team steps up to spell Peter and Kenny Washington, who performed the bass and drum duties on Wailin'. Regular collaborators John Webber and Joe Farnsworth have worked with Harold Mabern, Jimmy Cobb, and Michael Weiss, in addition to teaming together with Alexander on numerous gigs and record dates such as Summit Meeting and Dead Center. Their hookup can also be heard to great advantage on Farnsworth's A Beautiful Friendship (Criss 1166). Speaking of Webber, Stewart says, "He's one of my favorite bass players [because] he gets such a beautiful sound out of the bass and he's also an incredible soloist." As for Joe, he states unequivocally, "I don't think there's anyone out there who can play some of the stuff that he plays. He's just a real force on the drums." To which Eric adds, "He's my favorite drummer to play with and we've known each other for so long that everything we do is really second nature at this point."

Although the program here does not include any originals, Alexander and Stewart have managed to dig deep for an agreeable selection that includes bossa nova, quicksilver bebop, the blues lexicon, and a ballad feature for both tenor men. Each number goes for a particular feel and utilizes the two horns in a way that most complements the melody. The pair approaches unison passages with an especially well-developed precision, the technical proficiency needed to accomplish such a feat not to be taken for granted. Like the ideal club set, much thought has been given to the pacing and flow of each track with plenty of blowing space for Stewart, Alexander, and Hazeltine to boot.

Not as well known as his other signature numbers, "Conception"and "Lullaby of Broadway," George Shearing's She is seldom performed these days but is destined to be picked up now that Stewart and Alexander have revisited this beguiling composition. "I discovered that tune one night after a gig at Fat Cat," explains Stewart. "Pianist Sacha Perry showed it to me and Joe Cohn and then the following week he and I started playing it at our steady Tuesday night gig at Smalls." The piece boasts the standard AABA form of eight bars each section, with a contrasting Latin groove that distinguishes the bridge. Grant is the first soloist and for terms of identification can be heard on the left channel throughout the date. Eric is up next, followed by a brief turn from Hazeltine.

Tight unison passages and a brisk tempo help make So in Love a lesson in survival of the fittest. Grant is up first again, cleverly utilizing the tune's melody as a springboard for his mercurial statement. Eric then comes on strong, eating up the changes and utilizing the full range of his horn in a
way that has always set him apart from his peers.

"I've always wanted to record this beautiful tune," says Alexander of Never Let Me Go. While he sticks to the ballad tempo at first, his ideas start flowing in such a way that in order to allow them unfettered development he jumps into double time for much of his solo statement. Hazeltine then gets a turn before Eric's return, a closing gambit that further illuminates the saxophonist's considerable maturity and confidence.

Several years before the smooth tenor of Stan Getz met the cool strains of bossa nova or Walter Wanderley hit the charts with "Summer Samba," there was the film Black Orpheus, loosely based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Putting Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa on the musical map, the songs they penned for the soundtrack still provide fodder for jazz musicians today. Alexander supplies a fresh arrangement that "filled the need for a Latin number" while providing for "a nice variety of tunes to keep the album interesting."

Saxophonist Gene Ammons had more than his share of run-ins with the law and just prior to a lengthy prison stay that would keep him off the scene for much of the mid to late '60s he would record Boss Tenor, arguably one of his best albums. The centerpiece of that set is the blues anthem Hittin' the Jug, heard here in an Alexander arrangement that boasts its own share of rewards. "You can't be a tenor player in Chicago and not learn this one," he says while speaking from experience. Note the way the pair voices that descending run in unison, then alternates solo turns at the arpeggiated lick that ends each two bar phrase. A clever stop-time device also launches the solos of both Alexander and Stewart.

Grant's ballad feature, Trouble is a Man, is a lovely Alec Wilder piece that reminds us of the unique melodic gifts of this oft-neglected composer. As Stewart explains, “That's on At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, one of my favorite Hawk records. There's [also] a video of Carmen McRae singing it on that Jazz Casual series. She sings it with the verse and after hearing that I decided I wanted to include the verse as well."

Who Can I Turn To comes from the collaborative team of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, penned for the 1965 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd. Commenting on the sagacious idea to take this one at a quicker pace than usual, Eric acknowledges, "I like taking tunes that are generally done as ballads and swinging them."
Agreeable to this arrangement, Grant says, "I used to play it quite a bit, but hadn't played it in awhile. I used to do it in E flat, but we do it [here] in F."

One of the many Charlie Parker lines based on the chord changes to "I've Got Rhythm," Passport actually turned out of to be a stand-in for another piece in a fortuitous turn of serendipity. "We had something else we had planned to do, but that ended up being a last minute decision," says Grant. In addition to powerhouse solos from Grant, Eric, and David, the two tenor men trade fours before returning to the head. "Those Bird heads are so strange and unconventional," Grant later asserts. "You get so used to hearing them that you forget how abstract they really are. They're beautiful, but really avant garde."

The obvious merits of their first effort notwithstanding, I think both Eric and Grant would have to agree that further time spent on the bandstand after the release of Wailin' has helped to make this sophomore effort an even stronger statement. Throughout the session, you can hear that the pots were on, with the pair cookin' up a most fortifying musical feast.”


Tenor Time [Criss Cross 1332] David R. Adler, New York, January 2011

“Saxophonists Eric Alexander and Grant Stewart know all about the value of partnership, as their consistently fulfilling work under the Reeds and Deeds banner makes clear. It's part of a rich tradition of two-tenor pairings in jazz — deep and focused, informed by something beyond cutting-contest dynamics and showmanship.

Tenor Time is the third Reeds and Deeds outing, following up Wailin’ [Criss 1258] and Cookin’ [Criss 1283]. And that's the tip of the iceberg — Eric Alexander has appeared on over 30 Criss Cross titles either as a sideman or leader, dating back to 1992. Grant Stewart, with his copious vocabulary and heavier, darker-hued tenor sound, can trace his Criss Cross lineage back to 1992 as well. As individuals, these are two of the most accomplished and compelling tenor voices in the idiom today.

"We have a lot of similar influences," Grant offers. "Eric has more of a certain period of Trane in his playing, and a heavy George Coleman influence. I have a heavy Sonny Rollins influence. But we were both influenced by Dexter and Stitt and Bird." Alexander concurs and adds more wrinkles: "We are both coming out of the bebop language, but Grant from the Hawkins/Rollins side and I'm more from the Young/Gordon/ Coltrane side. Grant is more likely to make use of quotes and motivic development and I'm more likely to play some things that one would associate with modal and free jazz."

What unites them is a deep connection to the older masters of the music. Grant is quick to mention his experience with great drummers: Jimmy Cobb, Bobby Durham and Roy McCurdy among them. Eric draws on formative experiences with George Coleman, Charles Earland, John Hicks and others, and maintains an ongoing bond with piano great Harold Mabern (a Reeds and Deeds rhythm section member on various international tours).

Another key to Reeds and Deeds' success is the rest of the band on Tenor Time: pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth make their second appearance on an R & D date. These vibrant, rock-solid players, among the most sought-after straight-ahead jazz musicians in New York, are all well represented individually in the Criss Cross library, and they happen to be Eric's colleagues in the present incarnation of One for All (a supergroup sextet with its own history on Criss Cross dating back to 1999). Hazeltine plays a double role as consummate accompanist and co-soloist, breaking up the dominant tenor sound.

"It's basically Eric's rhythm section," Grant says, "though I've worked with them all in different settings. It's such a great band — you can't really go wrong." Eric notes how musicians of this caliber "play for you, not with you. That's a foreign concept to a lot of young players, but an essential one if we're going to be able to do our thing. Grant and I need space, but also creativity from [the band]."

And creativity is what they get. There's a sense of motivated swing and drive on these eight pieces, each perfectly chosen to highlight the co-leaders' simpatico as melodic interpreters and improvisers.

Omicron is a Donald Byrd composition that leads off Whims of Chambers, the classic 1956 album by bass legend Paul Chambers. Given that the tenor saxophonist on that recording is a fellow named John Coltrane, the inclusion of this Woody n' You variant makes perfect sense. "I called this one," says Grant, "because it's a [progression] we've all played on forever, and it's good to let loose on." Eric adds, "I've always felt it's a real challenge to play all of those half-diminished chords back to back." Their version retains the Latin tinge — and bass solo on the bridge — of the original, but increases the tempo. The two horns play steady unisons in lower and higher registers before breaking out into their respective statements (Eric, then Grant). It's just this sort of effortless blend of timbres, and flair for instinctive, off-the-cuff arrangements, that we hear throughout the album.

Cryin 'Blues, by Eddie Harris, has a laid-back, almost rock-like feel with twisty syncopation in the turnaround. Grant solos first, deep in the pocket; Eric takes an edgier, more multiphonic route and a broken-up rhythmic approach, at least initially. Hazeltine's solo features crisp, perfectly placed double-time lines and two choruses framed by classic hard-bop backgrounds from the saxes. "I suggested this tune," says Eric. "Eddie Harris came up with all of these funky tunes before anyone really knew what funk was. He was a borderline genius."

Eric's ballad feature comes with a twist: It's a duo with Hazeltine on Tenderly, the 1946 standard, and it gives us a sense of the warmth and blues feeling underlying Eric's more biting tone and angular ideas. Eric and David begin the piece rubato but ease into tempo, maintaining a slow 4/4 (the song was originally a waltz). "David and I really enjoy playing duos," Eric says. "We've explored that setting many times on gigs, and it was good for variety on this session."

Jule Styne's Make Someone Happy, from the 1960 Broadway production Do Re Mi suits Eric and Grant well as a mid-tempo cooker, with piquant harmonizations and obbligato on the head. "I've been playing this one for the last year or so," Grant remarks. I've always loved the Tony Bennett-Bill Evans duo version." The form is 40 bars: 16 and 16 with an eight-bar melodic tag. Grant swings authoritatively out of a stop-time break, threading melodies throughout his complex line playing (catch the surprise quote from Rollins' Freedom Suite about midway through the first chorus). Hazeltine offers two focused choruses and then yields to Alexander, who takes a busier and more fragmented rhythmic approach.

Amsterdam is an alluring melody by George Coleman, "my favorite tenor man in the world today and a tremendous human being," says Eric. "Grant, however, was the one who suggested it for the date." "We played it on the road in Japan," Grant explains, adding: "It's a fun tune to blow over, in E flat minor — you don't play that many tunes in E flat minor." Again the two tenors apportion the melody with an ear toward timbral variance and nuance. Following solos by Grant and then Eric, Hazeltine uncannily seizes on the propulsive, Latin-tinged rhythm to go McCoy Tyner-esque for about four bars, quoting subtly from A Love Supreme. Coltrane's influence rears its head, but this time from the piano bench.

Grant chooses Irving Berlin's Isn't It a Lovely Day as a ballad feature, omitting the opening verse. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong have a famous version, although according to Grant, "there's a Billie Holiday version that I used to listen to all the time." Farnsworth's brushes, Webber's patient walking, Hazeltine's sophisticated harmonic touches, Grant's way with that hair-raising cadence in the 14th bar, not to mention his soulful cadenza — this is how it's done at slow tempos.

Hazeltine reportedly wrote R & D Bossa just a day before the date. The pace is upbeat and there's a wealth of harmonic movement. The A section has a certain familial resemblance to the Horace Silver classic Nica's Dream. "Dave writes great tunes," says Stewart. "All of his pieces have a nice hook and he writes great melodies." Eric, Grant and the composer all have their say, and the two horns blow softly and simultaneously on the outro.

Rise 'n' Shine is a raging swinger from Coltrane's 1958 Prestige classic Settin' the Pace, and here it becomes the closest thing to an outright tenor duel we'll hear from Reeds and Deeds. But even if the pressure is on right away, with a round of trading eights, then fours and even twos, you can't afford to look over your shoulder and think about the other guy. "At that tempo, you're just thinking survival," Grant quips. But everyone makes it through — Grant peels off after the trading with a few stand-alone choruses, followed by Eric and then out. The abrupt downbeat at the end says it loud and clear: That's a wrap.’”

The following video montages uses tracks from the three Reeds and Deeds CDs as their soundtracks so as to give you a sampling of the engaging music on offer in these recordings.




No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thank you.