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Hugh Fraser/Jean Toussaint: Back to Back

The Coltrane Quartet influences are at work in this album, in Fraser’s McCoy Tyner-thumping, Tyner-speed piano, and Toussaint’s squirming tenor saxophone figures. (These are descriptive generalizations and are not intended to imply that this is all there is to these versatile players.) The Virgin Islands saxophonist, a veteran of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and now a teacher at the Guildhall School of Music in London, has a dry, tight tenor tone and an emotionally charged way of developing a solo. One of his more reflective outings comes on soprano, on Fraser’s “Tristeza,” a tune and performance that suggests the melancholy mood of the movie ” ‘Round Midnight.”

Fraser, a Canadian who has won two Juno awards, also plays a J.J. Johnson-ish trombone on four tracks. These are freer than the six cuts with piano.

Bassist Arnie Somogyi and drummer Keith Copeland back the principals. The drummer is particularly impressive in his muscular round on the opening “Mr. J.T.”; in his busy, exciting, Max-and-Klook solo on “Mode to McCoy”; in his telepathic support of Somogyi’s solo on “Seismic Disturbance”; and in his interplay with the horns on the pianoless tracks. In sum, sturdy state-of-the-art playing by experienced hands.

Originally Published