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Frank Foster: Leo Rising

The self-congratulating jazz departments of US major labels past and present should be pilloried for letting Frank Foster go a quarter of a century without leading a record date, not to mention never giving him a quartet date. Thankfully, there are civic minded independent labels like Arabesque who pick up the slack and, in producing albums like Foster’s Leo Rising, give the party line about celebrating America’s jazz heritage at least an iota of credibility.

Luckily, even one’s most toxic bile quickly drains away upon hearing the rousing opening choruses of “You’re Only as Old as You Look,” a mid-tempo blues Foster mines like the Comstock lode. Foster’s art lies in his projection of a relaxed energy, a combination of a quick wit, acute insights, and graceful execution, so it’s not surprising that Foster’s mastery of the tenor can be thoroughly demonstrated through such a simple vehicle. Allowing his solo to be buoyed by the shuffle suggested by Christian McBride, Foster creates a richly detailed narrative from a stock plot line by nudging the bassist and his section mates-pianist Stephen Scott and drummer Lewis Nash-to tint and shade his every phrase.

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