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Al Foster: Inspirations & Dedications (Smoke Sessions)

The drummer honors his mentors, friends, and family on his latest album

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Al Foster, Inspirations & Dedications
The cover of Inspirations & Dedications by Al Foster

Only 16 when he started playing trio gigs with the likes of Larry Willis and Eddie Gomez, drummer Al Foster has spent six decades as a not-so-secret special groove ingredient enlivening performances and sessions by a long list of heavy hitters. For Inspirations & Dedications, a rare outing as a leader, Foster deploys his working quintet on two pieces by mentors, and 11 originals honoring family members and a friend.

Tunes by Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, both of whom benefited from Foster’s artful rhythmic ministrations, serve as bookends on the recording. Herbie’s “Cantaloupe Island” opens with low-slung funk, a showcase for Dayna Stephens’ reedy, rangy tenor attack before trumpeter Jeremy Pelt’s rapid-fire volleys urge Foster to kick the proceedings up several notches and then stretch the rhythm a bit behind pianist Adam Birnbaum’s solo. And Miles’ funkified, playful “Jean-Pierre” is an exercise in creative groove digging, featuring invigorating interplay between the horn players and the rhythm section.

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Philip Booth

Philip Booth is a longtime arts journalist and bass player based in Florida. Formerly the pop music critic for the Tampa Tribune, he has contributed to many national publications, recently including the Washington PostJazziz, and Relix. His byline also has appeared in DownBeat, Bass Player, Billboard, Variety, Spin, Rolling Stone, and several academic journals. The debut CD from his band, Acme Jazz Garage, gained airplay on about 35 radio stations across the US.