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Charles Pillow: Currents

I remember writing recently about the fact that the hard bop scene of the ’50s-’60s featured so many excellent tenor players that many (Mobley, Land, Jordan, Brooks, etc.) never got their due. Nowadays there must be hundreds of players who have mastered the modern idiom, none of whom seem to have styles as well defined as any of the previous generation. The problem is that the honest efforts of dedicated players deserve support, but how can an honest reviewer counsel buying these releases ahead of several dozen old recordings?

I can say that Pillow and Bergonzi at their best seem ready to break out from the madding post-Henderson crowd; I enjoyed quite a bit on these three records. Pillow is a Coltrane-influenced voice whose most effective work comes when he’s spinning out up-tempo abstractions. His poise and sense of solo construction on “Even Steven” are indications of exceptional musicality. His cohorts include a fine guitarist, Ben Monder, and a rhythm section that’s good at straightahead swinging (there is a jazz-rock thing or two that don’t move as well). I’m less impressed with Pillow’s admittedly accomplished soprano work, but that may be my prejudice. A whole record like the best few tracks would get a rave.

Originally Published