A taste for Wallace’s quirky style is easy to acquire from this encounter with pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Yoron Israel. Wallace brings his tenor saxophone eccentricity to eight songs by George Gershwin. His identifying characteristics are a chesty tone and a use of interval leaps that call to mind both the joyful iconoclasm of Eric Dolphy and the loping Sonny Rollins of the late ’50s. His improvisation in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” summons up the image of a cowhand whooping and hollering on a bucking horse. If that picture does not square with Gershwin’s elegance, it should be noted that however rambunctious his blowing choruses, Wallace plays the melodies with respect. Both aspects are emphasized in “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” with its gleeful statement of the melody and Wallace’s honks, cries and hortatory runs. He approaches “Someone to Watch Over Me” with judicious melodic embroidery clearly inspired by Ben Webster. Miller’s attentive accompaniment makes the performance a full duo collaboration. “How Long Has This Been Going On,” with the full quartet, is another Webster-ish ballad performance by Wallace, with a lyrical solo by Miller.
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