Thursday, August 6, 2015

Charles McPherson, The Journey

Charles McPherson! We need to embrace the happy reality that the alto sax master is very much with us and playing beautifully. After studying with Barry Harris in Detroit, he burst upon the scene as one of Charlie Mingus's prime reedmen from 1960 to 1972. Like Jackie McLean and John Handy, he was and is one of the alto luminaries that took the message of Charlie Parker and expanded on it to develop his own original voice. And like those two he was an important part of the Mingus sound during his tenure, and recorded some great albums of his own over the years as well.

The good news is that he gives us another excellent outing right now on his CD The Journey (Capri 74136-2). He puts forward for us on the program three very good originals, a few standards, and some other nice contemporary bop-and-after originals by band members.

It is a good mix of players that hold forth as Charles' quintet. Keith Oxman complements McPherson with a stylistically strong bop-and-after tenor; Chip Stephens plays a bright, fully formed, hard swinging piano style that fits in well. Then there are strong rhythm teammates in Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums.

The front line shares the blowing duties with lots to say. Stephens and Oxman keep up with Maestro McPherson and no doubt inspire him as well, for he sounds great throughout, with that expansive, free and heated, swinging way in full bloom. There is nothing lacking; Charles hits it and keeps on all the way through. It is a joy to hear him and the band spur each other on and pay respects to the tradition while going deeply into their own and especially McPherson's scorching and soulful way.

In short this is a treat, a major statement from an elder statesman of the music who remains vital. Get the real thing here!

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