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Alvin Queen: Jammin’ Uptown

Aside from a bonus track, this CD first saw light as an LP from drummer Queen’s Nilva label, based in Switzerland, in 1985. An expatriate living in Europe since the ’80s, Queen made the sextet session in New York with bassist Ray Drummond doing double duty as producer. Despite the title, it’s much more than a jam-session date, organized with fully realized theme arrangements and even some interludes and shout choruses, although the emphasis is on blowing. Queen keeps things crackling with his lean, snappy style, but hardly solos at all. The bonus track, “Hear Me Drummin’,” recorded at a club in Zagreb, Croatia, as a duet with conga player Hrvoje Rupcic, displays Queen’s fondness for African-influenced polyrhythms and boasts an admirable linear development for a drum feature.

The sextet date is notable for crisp performances and a lineup that includes two young lions who were just emerging as major players in the ’80s, trumpeter Terence Blanchard and trombonist Robin Eubanks, both showing intimations of greatness. Filling out the frontline is the hard-charging, underrated saxophonist Manny Boyd, whose longer résumé (including notable associations with Bobby Hutcherson and Sun Ra) has eluded most jazz reference works. Pianist John Hicks rounds out the rhythm section and contributes brawny, ebullient solos. The program, all originals from Eubanks and Boyd (two each), Hicks and Blanchard (one each) range from asymmetric to soulful hard bop, a ballad featuring trombone, piano and bass solos, and a minor-key “Hassan” from Boyd, giving Queen a showcase chance to alternate 4/4 swing with a Middle-East-flavored rhythm on toms.

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