November 2005

Eric Alexander and Vincent Herring
The Battle
HighNote Records

Whenever two or more saxophonists gather together, there is usually the scent of blood. And so it is with this match between tenorman Alexander and altoman Herring. No mean scene here, but neither party takes the session lightly, either. For listeners familiar with classic recorded saxophone battles of the past-Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin-this one is of equal stature, with more modern harmonies on display.

Accompanied by pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist John Webber and drummer Carl Allen, the protagonists open with Ammons and Stitt's "Blues Up and Down." Alexander guns with long lines, a big tone and bop-standard time; Herring walks tall with broken phrases and rippling articulation. Wes Montgomery's "Road Song" follows: Alexander drives straight ahead; Herring proves more rhythmically varied. LeDonne's "Shirley's Song," later in the program, changes the pace and sets a more modern mood as the composer's piano echoes both McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans.

Originally published in November 2005

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