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Ralph Lalama Quartet: Energy Fields

An orderly display of power is clearly the direction for this musical outing by tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama and his veteran backing unit of guitarist John Hart, bassist Rick Petrone and drummer Joe Corsello. There’s nothing loud or shouting in this session, yet the cogency is palpable and not some artificial energy display. The mix of five standards, including the not-so-widely-known “Blackberry Winter,” plus Woody Shaw’s “The Moontrane,” Charlie Parker’s “Buzzy,” Wayne Shorter’s “United” and the Lalama original “Nonchalant,” should tell you that Energy Fields is a no-nonsense date.

The fire is evident early on with Lalama and Hart tearing through “Buzzy,” then eases markedly with a mellow reading of “Nonchalant.” A different treatment of “Old Folks” features some backbeat funk with the guitarist employing a Wes Montgomery sound and the leader taking on Sonny Rollins colorations. That’s followed by a slow treatment of “Like Someone in Love.” Like the solid opener “The Moontrane,” “United” is taken at a medium uptempo clip with Lalama’s tenor careening through the tune’s angles and curves. Things slow for a sentimental exposition of “Indian Summer,” then “Just in Time” moves along at a rapid pace before the plaintive closer “Blackberry Winter.”

Some may complain that Lalama’s often-gruff sound holds too many similarities to Rollins’ but his solos have their own character and force. Likewise, Hart displays elements of Grant Green along with the Montgomery tinges. Petrone and Corsello just keep the propulsion moving without getting in the way.

Originally Published