The Second Milestone

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Milestone
ALBUM TITLE: Eric Alexander
PERFORMER: Jim Rotondi (t), Eric Alexander (ts), Harold Mabern (p), Peter Washington (b), Joe Farnsworth (d)
CATALOGUE NO: MCD-9315-2

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Hard bop has been the new mainstream for a sufficient time now for many to complain that it falls prey to routine as much as its predecessor did.

A player such as Alexander – the archetypal, tough tenorman from Chicago, baby-faced but now past 30 – is so steeped in the lore and language of the style, though, that he cruises right past its conventions and makes his own muscular mark on the category, adding more and more individuality each time.

You get the feeling that he could make a record like this every day of his playing life, but it’s no reason to suggest that there’s anything rote or overly facile about the results here.

The choice of excellent material helps – ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’ is an enterprising opener, and ‘Moment To Moment’ is a Henry Mancini ballad which few others have tried on for size – and the top-notch ensemble (with Windy City godfather Harold Mabern on the strength) follow him with cat-like assurance.

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Rotondi makes three appearances for a little variation in the front line. But it’s Alexander’s own playing, burnished to a hard golden shine, which holds the ear, sweeping tempestuously through fast tempi or conferring radiance at ballad pace. Richard Cook