If John Coltrane came to personify a profound spiritual yearning, what has his boyhood friend Benny Golson signified? A personal brand of stately elegance, in everything from his appearance, with his dapper mustache out of classic Hollywood; to his playing, a flawless balance of elegant and earthy; his composing, with its meticulous craftsmanship yielding effortless melodies; and his onstage storytelling, which crosses from erudition into delightful eccentricity.
All of those elements-even the mustache-are in play on Golson’s most recent album, Horizon Ahead, his HighNote label debut and his first new release since a 2009 outing with a relaunched Jazztet. A quartet date featuring the lived-in rhythm section of pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Carl Allen, it matches choice standards (“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” has rarely been so hummable) with Golson originals (the deceptively accessible “Jump Start”; “Domingo,” written for Lee Morgan Vol. 3), and ends with a curveball. Following an astute spoken introduction from Golson-just the sort of thing you’d hear in your local theater-Allen offers a highly listenable solo drum-kit piece. Neither blowing session nor conceptual work, Horizon Ahead is simply terrific.
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