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Hank Crawford: The World of Hank Crawford

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Crawford always puts deep feeling into his alto saxophone playing and he always gives you the melody, the blues and a groove. He’s consistent and economical. This album is his 15th for Milestone, and it goes back to some of the jazz tunes he heard in his early days. Produced by Bob Porter, Crawford’s longtime studio sidekick, it includes six combo tracks (with the alto saxophonist as the only horn) and three tracks with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber added.

The full band opens the album with “Grab the World,” a minor-key samba by Mansoor Sabree. Belgrave (on flugelhorn) takes a lyrical, mellow turn; Crawford follows in a soulful mood, Cuber charges in and Danny Mixon splashes around the keyboard in a manner reminiscent of the late Don Pullen. “Way Back Home,” by Crusaders saxophonist Wilton Felder, and a bouncy “Good Bait,” the familiar bop tune by Tadd Dameron, also utilize the additional horns.

On the slow ballad “Trust in Me,” Crawford works his patented expressive magic on the melody, after which guitarist Melvin Sparks contributes a blues-drenched amen chorus. Mixon’s organ sets the mood here as well as on another delicious slow one, Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” (which features a sanctified, Johnny Hodges-tinged melody statement by Crawford).

“Love for Sale” (with a boogaloo beat), “Sonnymoon for Two” (straightahead blues), “Star Eyes” (a bow to Charlie Parker), plus Crawford’s stomping “Back in the Day” round out the program. Bassist Stanley Banks and drummer Kenny Washington keep the rhythm section righteous.