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Listening to a quartet of highly experienced yet under-recorded jazz musicians is akin to stepping off the beaten path to take in a new vista. Drummer Taru Alexander’s second leader date in more than 30 years of professional playing is a highly individual, rough-and-tumble affair featuring the veterans Antoine Roney on tenor saxophone and James Hurt on piano, and relative youngster Rashann Carter on bass.
Antoine’s brother Wallace Roney, a gifted trumpeter who died all too soon, was to Miles Davis as Antoine is to Wayne Shorter. Both men absorbed the sounds and approaches of their elders, eventually working them into their own styles. Similarly, Hurt’s approach to the piano looks to McCoy Tyner’s harmonic chromaticism while bassist Carter’s foundation lies in the styles of his teachers, Buster Williams, Reggie Workman and Ron Carter. But role models in jazz most often serve as touch points upon which to build, as heard here.
That said, it’s interesting that Alexander’s take on drums is so unusual as to question lineage. Unlike the vast majority of jazz drummers who depend upon one or two ride cymbals to maintain drive, direction and groove, Alexander utilizes his battery of drums instead. During tenor, piano and bass solos, when most drummers would use primarily ride cymbals as accompaniment, Alexander leans into his snare, tom-toms and bass drums, often sounding as though he is simultaneously soloing — complete with accented crash cymbals. He’s forceful, foregoing any use of brushes by sticking with sticks — even during bass solos.
The title of this release alludes to the set list, tunes chosen to honor influential player-composers: Monk’s “I Mean You” (featuring vocalist Hanka G.); Tyner’s Latin-tinged “Peresina”; Shorter’s quirky “Pinocchio”; Buster Williams’ driving “Deception”; and Roland Alexander’s ramped-up “Kojo Time.” The latter tune, as well as the modal and moody opener “Change Up,” are compositions by Taru’s father, a tenor saxophonist who died in 2006. All coalesce as hard-hitting and positively raw-sounding, a fitting tribute to jazz elders.— James Rozzi