When you’ve made as many albums as saxophonist Eric Alexander has over the past 15 years, as a leader and a session player, calling attention to a yet another recording isn’t easy. Prime Time, however, packs a bonus that warrants attention: a nine-track concert DVD that’s entertaining enough to stand alone.
Those familiar with Alexander’s hard-bop roots or his recent quartet sessions with pianist Harold Mabern won’t be surprised by the tone or thrust of these live performances—or, for that matter, by some of the tunes that resurface here. Recorded at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, N.C. last year, the quartet arrangements are soulful, straightahead and Blue Note-tinted, with Alexander out front playing vibrant, fluid tenor in ways that occasionally point to the influence of Joe Henderson, George Coleman, John Coltrane and other masters. Among the album’s treats is “We All Love Eddie Harris,” a jubilant salute that’s as evocative as its title suggests and a performance stamped by pianist David Hazeltine’s percussive attack. Elsewhere, the cohesive ensemble, featuring bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth, creates some striking contrasts. At one end of the spectrum is “Some Other Time,” which quietly illustrates the band’s seductive way with a romantic ballad; at the other end is Alexander’s “Nemesis,” harmonically brash and powerfully driven.
In addition to offering pieces by Alexander and Hazeltine, including fresh, expansive performances of some of the aforementioned tunes, the DVD boasts Farnsworth’s set-capping, crowd-pleasing boogaloo “Prime Time.”