Twenty years on (the album title, a bit of a misnomer, indicates that they’re entering their third decade), the sextet One for All defines-as much as any outfit today-the contemporary supergroup: saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber (the most recent addition-he joined a decade ago) and drummer Joe Farnsworth are all consummate pros who never lack for work; most are leaders in their own right. They don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, or anything else for that matter, but they don’t need to. Initially inspired by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, they’ve long since stood on their own, steadfast and ceaselessly pleasurable, if not particularly innovative.
The 11 tracks on The Third Decade–
remarkably, their 16th release in that 20-year span, albeit the first since 2011-include compositions by each band member, and a safe cover-Rodgers and Hart’s “It’s Easy to Remember.” There isn’t one in the bunch that’s executed less than masterfully. The majority of tracks are imbued with requisite swing while nodding considerately to hard-bop convention. The sole ballad, Alexander’s “Ghost Ride,” is soulful and debonair.
The Third Decade offers up what One for All recordings always have: artfully framed and efficiently performed solos, skillful arrangements and unforced camaraderie. When they cook, as they do most impressively on Alexander’s “Frenzy” and Davis’ “Daylight,” the sextet invariably finds the sweet spot where individual aptitude has no problem bubbling to the surface while the aggregate is laser-focused on crafting a fully formed group statement. “For Curtis,” Rotondi’s tribute to trombonist Curtis Fuller, naturally provides a showcase for Davis’ expertise on the instrument but goes beyond that to welcome solo spots by the other horn players and pianist Hazeltine. Webber and Farnsworth contribute one composition each, “Babataytay” and “Hey, Stevie D,” respectively, the first of which brings a bit of funk and the latter a touch of the blues. They may not come around as often as they used to, but One for All still has plenty to say.