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April 1998

Eric Alexander
Two of a Kind
Criss Cross Jazz

Eric Alexander is a compelling young tenorist whose robust melodism and bluesy attack bespeak the Olympian influences of such titans as George Coleman, Dexter Gordon and Stanley Turrentine. In contrast to the often steely-edged angst of the 'Trane-inflected New York tenor scene, here's a 29-year-old Gothamite whose playing is sunny and swinging. Even when pushing time and harmony to the brink as he does with "Mr. Harris" (a tip-of-the-hat to the late Eddie Harris), there's an intensely focused lyricism at work as well.

Alexander is backed by pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth. It's a hand-in-glove affair with an easy-going bravura reminiscent of the classic blowing dates produced by Blue Note in the 1960s. On the aptly titled "Happy Song," for example, Alexander rambles with loose-limbed aplomb. For "Pentimento," he declaims with a tone at once tender and tough. Baritone saxman Cecil Payne, a frequent Alexander session-mate, waxes earthy in a cameo on "Cecil's Slide." The date is a winner. It's also a benchmark in the career of one of the scene's most engaging young tenorists.

Originally published in April 1998
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