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November 2000

Eric Alexander
The First Milestone
Milestone

Eric Alexander is a wonder; a young man with a horn whose impassioned tenor sax is the resonant vehicle for one of contemporary jazz's most exciting and original voices. Here, in his aptly tabbed debut for Milestone, Alexander displays his impressive talents in an engaging program of gritty originals and neatly altered standards. Abetting the tenorman are esteemed veterans Harold Mabern (piano) and Pat Martino (guitar), plus trusted colleagues from Alexander's cooperative, One for All, Peter Washington (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums). While it's obviously Alexander's date, the band plays with a hand-in-glove rapport that elevates all facets of the dynamically spontaneous interactions.
On Alexander's tumultuous title track, the leader's tenor and Martino's guitar trace the tune's serpentine lines with insouciant ease, setting up intense solos that singe and soar. In "Stand Pat," the quintet parries and thrusts. Here, Alexander churns the pulse with a rhythmic audacity worthy of Rollins. As a balladeer, the tenorist's lyrical lope through "#34 Was Sweetness: For Walter Payton" catches the iridescent aura of that football artiste with a booming sound at once steely and warm. It also captures the quicksilver magic of the great Mabern, an inspiring soloist as well as an extraordinary accompanist. Washington and Farnsworth are likewise exemplary in pivotal roles.
In all, The First Milestone is an indelible date that should put the nonpareil Alexander at the top of the marquee.

Originally published in November 2000
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