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Eric Alexander: Summit Meeting

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Summit Meeting matches tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander with trumpeter Nicholas Payton on four tracks, and the meeting comes off with the bold flair of many Blue Note sessions of yore. On the other tracks, Alexander is alone with the rhythm section and is just as inspired. Harold Mabern’s driving piano has much to do with the fire of this album, as do John Webber’s bass and Joe Farnsworth’s drums.

Alexander’s fluid lines and warm, even tone know no harmonic barrier. He’s equally comfortable at the racehorse tempo of “Something’s Gotta Give” as he is with the ballad tempo of “I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do.” The title tune, an Alexander original reminiscent of Horace Silver, finds the saxophonist soloing with subtle echoes of Jimmy Heath’s patterns and sound. Payton appears on this tune, bright, crisp and boppish. The brassman also plays on Mabern’s “There But for the Grace of…,” “A House Is Not a Home” and Alexander’s Blue Note-ish “Andre’s Turn.” Mabern, a powerhouse player with his own seasoned tactics, conjures up the heart-pounding excitement of early McCoy Tyner throughout the album (“The Sweetest Sounds” and John Coltrane’s “After the Rain” are two examples).

Alexander has made steady progress as an instrumentalist and improviser during his decade of recording. This album is indeed a summit of sorts in terms of his chops and recording career as a leader.