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Alex Riel: Rielatin

Riel performed and recorded with Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon in the ’60s during the saxophonists’ years in Copenhagen. Thirty-five years later, the Danish drummer still keeps stellar company, as this album shows. Produced by Chris Minh Doky (who plays bass on the album), the CD includes tenor saxophonists Mike Brecker and Jerry Bergonzi, guitarist Mike Stern and pianist Kenny Werner.

Riel is a tasty player who occasionally recalls Billy Higgins. His lone extended feature is a solo performance called “In My Own Sweets Way,” dedicated to trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison and drummer Zutty Singleton. (Edison could sing like Singleton soloed on the snare drum, Riel says in the liner notes.) As an accompanist, Riel can be scrappy (as he is behind Brecker on a fast “Bessie’s Blues”) or understated.

Brecker sizzles in his two appearances. He and Bergonzi appear together only on Webster’s “Did You Call Her Today?,” which catches each in dazzling form. Bergonzi is aboard for six of the album’s nine tunes-great dark tone, inflections and nuances, lines and rhythm.

Stern matches Brecker’s swarming rhythms on “Bessie’s” and also proves fast company with Bergonzi on the latter’s bluesy “The Bat” and intricate, boppish “High Tops.” Werner is featured in a trio version of “I Fall in Love Too Easily”-a lovely, well-developed performance that also includes a Scott LaFaro-like solo by Doky. The pianist also appears on five other tracks. His light, Basieish lines (with modern chords) on “Did You Call Her Today?” is a perfect alternate to the oblique, flurried tenors.

If you’re in the mood for some first-rate postbop jazzmen at the top of their game, this album is highly recommended.

Originally Published