December 1998

Elias Haslanger
Kicks Are for Kids
Heart Music

Tenor saxophonist Elias Haslanger is the real deal, a no-nonsense modernist whose Rollins-esque rhythmatics and Trane-tinged harmonics surge and soar. For his latest, the young titan flies with a spiky quartet whose savvy hipness recalls the best groups of Davis, Blakey and Silver. The nifty moves of pianist Fredrick Sanders, bassist Edwin Livingston, drummer J.J. Johnson and trumpeter Tito Carrillo set fires everywhere. At the same time, it should be stressed that Haslanger is a man with his own clearly mapped agenda.

Among the group's assets is its stylistic diversity. The title track, for one example, jumps with hip-hop insouciance. For in-the-pocket swing with a neo-boppish twist, "Two Tone" or "Dweet Di Diddle It" fill the bill. As revealed in "Patience," Haslanger's heart-on-sleeve balladry is likewise winning. Then there's his amiable mid-tempo ambling in "Eugene and Marie," a friendly stroll with guest Ellis Marsalis sitting in on piano. In all, it's a highly appealing date with plenty of blood and thunder and seriously swinging fun.

Originally published in December 1998
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