Temple of Olympic Zeus
Though he was born in 1968, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander seems as if he came up in the late ’50s or early ’60s. His style is decidedly hard bop, and his sax sounds much like that of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, without sounding like he’s trying to. He’s also mighty prolific. Still in his 30s, he has, if my math is correct, released two dozen albums already.
But for a dull take of “Someday We’ll All Be Free” that is brought down by a pop-jazz backbeat, Alexander’s new disc, Temple of Olympic Zeus, is a smart set of hard bop in the mold of Blue Note’s back catalog. We can even forgive the groaning, bloated title—Alexander says that it, along with the title track, was inspired by a trip to Athens. Fine. What matters is that the tune smokes, not only because of Alexander’s bottomless well of ideas for solos but also thanks to the tight quintet, which features Jim Rotondi on trumpet and flugelhorn, David Hazeltine on piano, Nat Reeves on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.
For all the blue light of the burners, Alexander exudes warmth, too, particularly when he slows things down, as he does on the standard “Some Other Time.” He’s got a big, muscular tone, yes, but he’s also got a soft touch.