Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bennie Wallace: Moodsville

The name of the CD might lead a listener to expect floaty background music. The album does have moments of reflection, but Benny Wallace is not one to allow undue calm to sully his reputation for tenor saxophone gregariousness, bounding intervals and whoops of pleasure. In the eclectism of Wallace’s style, the chesty fullness of Ben Webster, Lucky Thompson and Don Byas gets equal time with something of Eric Dolphy’s hold-on-to-your-hat daring and Sonny Rollins’ whimsy.

Except that Lewis Nash rather than Yoron Israel is the drummer, Wallace has the same rhythm section that graced his 1998 CD, Someone to Watch Over Me (Enja). Mulgrew Miller’s attentive accompaniments and the assuredness and relaxation of his solos-even when his intervals leap as unpredictably as Wallace’s-remind us that the pianist is ubiquitous for good reason. Bassist Peter Washington also seems to turn up with all the best players these days. Here, as usual, he is impeccable. Nash shows his solo stuff in a break during “Love for Sale” and in exchanges with Wallace on the seldom-heard 1947 “Milestones,” but for the most part works hand in glove with Washington, supplying perfect time.

Wallace and the trio give splendid versions of Billy Strayhorn’s “My Little Brown Book” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.” A connoisseur of neglected songs, Wallace also includes “I’ll Never Smile Again” and “When a Woman Loves a Man,” along with the better-known “April in Paris” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma.”

Originally Published