Bill Easley is a bunch of great reed players. Although he restricts himself to the tenor saxophone (except for a clarinet solo on “Memphis Blues”), the journeyman musician can play any reed instrument and, as he demonstrates here, he can play them in a variety of voices and styles. It’s not surprising for a player of his background, which includes extensive sideman duties in a variety of genres (he’s played with Isaac Hayes, George Benson and Illinois Jacquet), and work in Broadway pit bands. That kind of career teaches a musician to approach music as a craft as much as an art, and by calling this album Business Man’s Bounce, Easley emphasizes the importance of getting across to an audience. That’s what he’s had to do; never able to rely on who he was to attract listeners, he has had to concentrate on what he played. He does that here from the outset, beginning with a version of “Straighten Up and Fly Right” that has more Fats Waller in it than Nat “King” Cole (at least in alliterative interjections such as “Fundamentally, you have a fondness for falsification”) and on which he adopts a honking sax tone reminiscent of King Curtis. That tone changes immediately to a swing-era smoothness on the original “Mentor,” which finds him in a tenor duet with Frank Wess.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.