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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CD Review: Steve Heckman Quintet - Search For Peace.

Steve Heckman (ten/bar); Howard Alden (gtr); Matt Clark (B3); Marcus Shelby (bs); Akira Tana (dms).
(Review by Lance).
It's a couple of years now since I heard Howard Alden down at Boisdale. I was impressed then and I'm equally impressed hearing him on this disc particularly alongside his fellow travellers.
Heckman's a relatively new name to me but his modern/mainstream tenor (2 tracks on bari*) style gels perfectly with the ace guitarist.
How refreshing it is to hear players who can work the changes without resorting to histrionics - players who know a melody when they hear one.
And what melodies! Not Porter/Gershwin/Kern/Berlin etc but, with the exception of Vernon Duke's Autumn in New York* and Heckman's own Hangin' at Slugs, the other 7 pieces are all composed, not by Tin Pan Alley guys, but by jazzmen of great merit. Thus, we have Fungii Mama (Blue Mitchell); Grantstand (Grant Green); Search For Peace (McCoy Tyner); Pannonica (Monk); Hi-Fly* (Randy Weston);  Melody For C (Sonny Clark); Spiral (Coltrane).
All terrific heads that hook you from chorus one and in this respect Heckman's Hangin' at Slugs more than holds it own.
His playing has been paralleled with such as Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley and I'll go along with that. His baritone playing on Autumn is sumptuous and luxuriant like a glass of vintage Madeira savoured alongside a Tiramisu dessert.
Alden has, of course, long been heralded as the natural successor to such as George Van Eps and his use of the 7 string guitar adds credence to this. (I'd be interested to hear from others on the merits of the extra string).
Matt Clark keeps pace on the good old Hammond B3, Shelby frees him from the pedals and Tana lives up to his reputation as someone who could swing the Dead March in Saul should the occasion demand it.
Steve Heckman Quintet - Search For Peace is available on Jazz Media JM 1069.
Lance.

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