Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Charles McPherson: The Journey

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: The Journey

Charles McPherson is another of the venerable jazz musicians who has become an icon in the music world, but remains largely unknown to the general public. He’s one of the few remaining “survivors” of the pure bebop saxophone artists who were active with stars such as Charles Mingus, Barry Harris and Art Farmer. 

McPherson’s association with Clint Eastwood brought the saxman back into the spotlight; he was commissioned to help record the soundtrack for Bird, Eastwood’s 1988 biographical film about Charlie Parker.

This album, McPherson’s newest, is the result of a chance meeting that occurred at a jazz clinic held at Colorado’s Denver Jazz Club Dazzle. Encounters with Keith Oman, a high school tenor sax instructor, along with some local musicians — pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker, drummer Todd Reid — led to a recording session that produced this release. 

Three of the tunes (“Manhattan Nocturne,” “The Journey” and “Bud Like”) are McPherson originals. “Elena” and “Tami’s Tune” are by Oxman; “The Decathexis from Youth (For Cole)” is composed by Stephens; and “Au Privave” comes from Charlie Parker. Two standards — “Spring Is Here” and “I Should Care” — round out the menu.

This album is a wonderfully performed visit to the past ... although I should note that very little separates today’s straight-ahead jazz from the bop that ruled from the 1950s through the ’90s. Everything, whether up-tempo or ballad, swings nicely.

This is a great release, delivered by artists who clearly enjoy what they’re doing.

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