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Al Foster Quartet: Love, Peace and Jazz!

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Every veteran sideman deserves to get a turn as a leader now and then, and drummer Al Foster certainly qualifies as a veteran, with a career dating back to the ’60s and including two lengthy stints with Miles Davis (early ’70s, early ’80s). Foster began leading his own quartet in the mid-’90s, resulting in one album, Brandyn, but none since, despite hundreds of dates around the world. Love, Peace and Jazz, recorded live at the Village Vanguard, follows 11 years later. Like most successful backup musicians, Foster has displayed versatility, which introduces the question of what his music sounds like on his own. It turns out to be melodic, engaging straightahead jazz.

Foster may have accompanied Davis in some of his more exploratory later efforts, but the drummer seems to respond personally to an earlier Davis; here, he covers both “E.S.P.” and “Blue in Green,” tunes that date from before his first tenure in the Davis group. He is abetted by Kevin Hays (piano), Douglas Weiss (bass) and Eli Degibri (saxophones). Not surprisingly, Hays and Degibri get the lion’s share of solos, but Foster makes himself heard, despite being a subtle and propulsive drummer rather than a showy one. Two of his three originals also appeared on his earlier album. The sole new one, “Peter’s Mood,” is so catchy it sounds like a lost pop standard. The album’s turning point from the ballad mood of the first half occurs during the tasteful three-minute drum solo that introduces “Brandyn,” which then expands out and becomes a boppish number. The set then takes off with a version of Blue Mitchell’s “Fungii Mama” that is lively and Latinish.

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