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Bennie Wallace: Bennie Wallace in Berlin

There’s more than a spark at the heart of Bennie Wallace in Berlin (Enja), which finds tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace leading a group consisting of pianist George Cables, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Herlin Riley. Wallace is known for the purported incongruity of his style, which combines an old-school tenor tone and vibrato with a modernist’s vocabulary. On this album, a repertoire evenly split between Wallace originals and George Gershwin classics lends an even more giddily disconcerting feel; for points of comparison, look to the Coleman Hawkins of Sonny Meets Hawk! (RCA/Victor) and the James Carter of JC on the Set (DIW/Columbia). This is a music rooted in familiar soil but blooming with exotic flora. It helps that the rhythm section, spearheaded by Cables and propelled by Riley, acts as a truly cohesive whole throughout the disc-anchoring Wallace’s sometimes off-kilter sensibilities in an earthy here and now.

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