Ernie Watts/Pete Christlieb/Rickey Woodard: The Tenor Trio

This sort of thing doesn’t often happen these days. It’s a blowing session, and it is a delight.

Tenor saxophonists Watts, Christlieb and Woodard are backed by the splendid rhythm section of pianist Gerry Wiggins, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Frank Capp. They blend beautifully in the heads. The contrast among their styles makes the blowing never less than interesting, but there are enough similarities that only the most astute listener will not have to refer to the lineups in the CD booklet to see who’s on first. To the credit of JMI (a sister label of JVC), the producers did not bill this as a tenor battle, which it decidedly is not. It is a tenor love feast on fare from the larder of the jazz tradition. The tunes are “Groovin’ High,” “Fried Bananas,” “St. Thomas,” “Moten Swing,” “Little Pony,” “Eternal Triangle,” “Holy Land,” “Love For Sale,” “Strollin’,” “Blues Up and Down” and “Here’s To Alvy.” There are no ballads. Everything is medium to up, and everything is full of spirit, swing and formidable chops.

Wiggins, Berghofer and Capp get their licks in among the tenor choruses. Those who have forgotten about or have yet to discover Wiggins will be delighted by his block chords chorus on “Moten Swing.” Berghofer once again establishes himself as one of the principal bassists in Los Angeles. Capp may be a bit of a chopper, but he chops with great time.

As for the saxophonists, this is so much fun that they should have their own three-tenors tour.