The Hidden Light
J Curve Records
On his second album, post-Wynton neobopper Gregory Tardy reveals as much technical and stylistic mastery as any of his Versace-suited peers, but not a whole lot of originality. Now 33, the tenor saxophonist underwent his formative education when Marsalis was passionately spreading his didactic bebop vision, and The Hidden Light makes plain that Tardy was affected by it.
On several of the tracks where he's joined by Nicholas Payton, their taut unison lines hark straight back to Wynton's early-'80s update of the Miles Davis Quintet. Thankfully, there are flashes of activity when Tardy blows by that model; unfortunately it generally leads him to emulate other icons. He tears up Coltranelike sheets of sound during his solo on "The Living Hope" and recalls Trane's freedom-seeking ways on the scalding "Jonah's Tears Part 2," as pianist George Colligan bangs out McCoy Tyner vamps and drummer Eric Harland drops Elvin Jones bombs. "Educated Freedom" is a bluesy, shuffling, straight-up homage to soulful sound of late '50s-era Art Blakey.
Elsewhere, Tardy pursued more interesting musical associations, including membership in the Dave Douglas Sextet, and there are a few tunes here where genuine personality crops up. The fast, funky, and ferocious "Mr. Hurt" and the exciting trades he makes with guest altoist Antonio Hart on "Second Wave (Pooh's Paradigm)" offer proof that Tardy's got something all his own.