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Eric Alexander: Nightlife in Tokyo

There are a lot of good young straightahead tenor players out there, but too often passion and intrepidness take a back seat to craft. Not a big problem for Eric Alexander, who stacks up with the best of the younger crew. The 30-something tenorist manages to inject a bit more emotion and spontaneity into his work than is typical of other players his age. His strength, however, is an attention to musical detail. Few saxophonists play with better intonation and make the changes with greater rhythmic and harmonic aplomb. Alexander’s articulation is clean but not too clean, and the slightly rough edges lend his improvisations a welcome tinge of instability-a kind of teetering-on-the-edge-of-coherence feeling that adds excitement to a performance.

Alexander’s helped along by his sidemen, who are better than run-of-the-mill. Harold Mabern does the Tyner thing as well as anybody this side of the real McCoy. Drummer Joe Farnsworth isn’t spectacular but does fine. While Ron Carter contrives a persuasive facsimile of his old 1960s self, he’s arguably a bit far down in the mix in places, as on the head to “Nemesis,” the album’s opening cut, where he virtually disappears into Mabern’s left hand. Alexander’s compositional style-like his improvisation style-owes a huge debt to Coltrane. The harmonically fussy altered blues “Big R.C.,” for example, is remindful of Coltrane’s “Some Other Blues.” Indeed, the whole endeavor is pretty much Coltrane redux, and while that can wear thin, he certainly could’ve picked a worse model. I guess you could say since Trane won’t be making any new records of this type (or any other), it’s good that young cats like Eric Alexander will.

Originally Published