Tim Warfield: Inspire Me!

This tight throwback to the golden era of hard bop showcases the virtuosity and brash tenor sound of erstwhile Young Lion Tim Warfield. But saxophonist Herb Harris deserves just as much recognition for writing, arranging, producing and releasing, on his imprint, this music. Warfield and Harris have a decades-long relationship, going back to the 1991 Tough Young Tenors album Alone Together, which featured the pair alongside fellow up-and-comers James Carter, Todd Williams and Walter Blanding.

Here, Harris includes no up-tempo tunes, opting for a relaxed collection of ballads and deep-in-the-pocket shuffles more reminiscent of Hank Mobley than Dexter Gordon. He appears throughout on tenor and vocals, with Warfield, trumpeter Antoine Drye, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Greg Williams and drummer Rodney Green. Warfield stretches out on Harris’ understated arrangements, opening with “Monkee See Monkee Do,” a midtempo blues during which he wails over the background horn lines with a seemingly through-composed solo. The dense orchestrations of the ballad “Robert Earl” serve as a springboard for some of Warfield’s most sensitive playing. Owing a clear debt to Jon Hendricks, Harris demonstrates his chops as a vocalist and lyricist on the wistful “What If’s” and “A Tinge of the Melancholy.” Warfield’s rhythmically varied playing on the latter is brief but impressive, a veritable master class on thematic development.