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Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat

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The initial blast that launches Freddie Hendrix’s solo on “St. Peter’s Walk” serves as a shout that means business. The trumpeter first heard the song on a Louis Hayes album that featured Woody Shaw, and Hendrix’s rapid and concise solo puts him in league with his predecessor. It also sets the bar high for what will come on Jersey Cat.

A strong leader, Hendrix has actually spent more time working as a support player, in settings that range from the Count Basie Orchestra to pop-R&B singer Alicia Keys and most recently with saxophonist Billy Harper’s sextet. Jersey Cat operates within familiar territory, specifically the upbeat style patented by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Within that style, Hendrix shows great promise as a composer and arranger.

The session features a four-piece horn section with trombonist David Gibson, tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and alto saxophonist/flutist Bruce Williams. Drummer Cecil Brooks III stokes the rhythm section that includes bassist Corcoran Holt and pianist Brandon McCune. Rather than turning the songs into blowing sessions, Hendrix keeps things concise with just a horn or two joining him on different tracks. Everyone is utilized in the themes, which often have distinct harmonic color as a result. “The Journey Man” is one of the most unique originals, with a theme that features three blues choruses offset with a middle-eight release. Readings of

“You Don’t Know What Love Is,” Freddie Hubbard’s “Hubtones” (revitalized via a hip-hop beat) and Horace Silver’s “Peace” provide updates on the jazz canon, but Jersey Cat’s best moments arrive with originals like “Madeira Nights,” in which the long romantic melody reveals the power of Hendrix’s tone.

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