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September 2007

Steve Grossman Quartet Featuring Harold Land
I’m Confessin’
Dreyfus Records

It’s Paris, 1992, and Steve Grossman is hosting a recording session with fellow tenor man Harold Land. The tunes are mostly familiar, the mood relaxed, and the performances, including those that feature just one reedman, are consistently enhanced by the presence of a rhythm section that boasts Jimmy Cobb on drums.

Miles Davis’ “Vierd Blues” sets the tone, with the two tenors joining Cobb, pianist Fred Henke and bassist Reggie Johnson for a little stroll before engaging in a series of four-bar exchanges. Grossman projects a robust sound while Land, who died in 2001, favors a lighter touch and brighter tone. That contrast is maintained throughout the tenor tandems, including those inspired by a pair of Thelonious Monk tunes: “Let’s Cool One,” which casually lives up to its title and showcases bassist Johnson, and “San Francisco Holiday,” a reminder of Land’s work with the composer and a vibrant album coda. When the tenorists go it alone, Grossman responds with a interpretation of the album’s title track that builds dramatically, with Cobb shifting from brushes to sticks, while Land contributes a soulful rendering of “Born To Be Blue.”

There’s nothing indispensable here, even for fans of the respective reedmen, just ample proof of common ground, chemistry and camaraderie, which is entertainment enough. The session ends before you know it, and not merely because it clocks in at a scant 50 minutes.

Originally published in September 2007
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