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Eric Alexander
The Second Milestone
Milestone CD MCD-9315-2, 2001

Mainstream tenor

Ben Ohmart, 4 July 2001

The First Milestone came about last year, the same year that saw his Alexander the Great moving up jazz charts. You may think that these pompous titles are bragging openly, but anyone who's been with Eric since his recording origins ten or so years ago will see that not much has developed with this guy. He's always been one smooth sax player; one of the best. He's played with the best, too. Cecil Payne, Kenny Barron, Irene Reid, Cedar Walton, plus last decade's standard-makers, pianist Cedar Walton and bassist Dwayne Burno, among others.

1997's Too Soon To Tell caught the ear of all and was acclaimed for its freshness mixed with traditionalism. Not bad for a guy born in only 1968.

The 58 minutes and eight tracks here are recorded loud, with a gleaming studio pace, augmented most wholly by the Eric-Harold-Joe combination. Joe Farnsworth's multi-rhythmic percussion never really seems to let up. Neither does Harold Mabern's leading piano, that glides or thumps impulsively, depending on the mood of the bar.

Melodies are sometimes thrown to the wind and jammed upon, as in the highly danceable "Luna Naranja" and "John Neely Beautiful People," the latter being a hot progression of Eric lip that at times loves to move to the contrary of his cohorts, yet always manages to come back around for a few well-placed harmonies.

"One thing I did try to be conscious about in making this record," Eric says, "was that we didn't have anything to prove. When you play live, a lot of the experience that listeners seem to enjoy is just the sheer intensity and excitement of it. But when you go into a studio, the objective is to make something a little more rounded, with some of the rough edges smoothed out, while at the same time being adventurous with all the qualities that make jazz great."

Make instrumental jazz great, he does. Already the author of a dozen CDs, Eric Alexander's playing is what the mainstream is all about. Some of the romance of David Sanborn with some of Coltrane's spunk, without hogging every inch of limelight. Even if this is your first crack at Eric Alexander's factory, you could hardly do worse.

performers  Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Jim Rotondi, trumpet; Harold Mabern, piano; Peter Washington, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums

songs  Matchmaker, Matchmaker · The Second Milestone · Moment To Moment · The Man From Hyde Park · Estate · Luna Naranja · John Neely Beautiful People · The Cliffs of Asturias

Copyright © 2001 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.