Jazz Master George Coleman has been involved with notable bands throughout his remarkable career. As a leader, he’s worked with such estimable players as Ray Drummond, Billy Higgins, Mike LeDonne, Bob Cranshaw, Hilton Ruiz and Sam Jones. As a sideman, Coleman has wielded his powerful tenor alongside such legendary artists as Miles Davis, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Cedar Walton, and B.B. King, among many others.
So when the saxophone giant christens an album The Quartet, those two simple words speak volumes about the esteem in which he holds the musicians that make up his band. Coleman’s latest album, more than backs up that typically understated compliment with a captivating session of bristling swing, lively interplay and deep communication.
That fact isn’t particularly surprising considering the musicians involved. On this all-too-rare excursion into the studio, Coleman is joined by pianist Harold Mabern, with whom the 84-year old master shares an almost lifelong relationship, bassist John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth. This quartet has been sharing the bandstand for the better part of two decades, though this release marks their debut recording as a unit. That fact alone lends considerable heft to that seemingly straightforward title.
Coleman and Mabern share roots in the fertile musical soil of Memphis, Tennessee, and have known each other since their days in high school studying under swing-era saxophonist Jimmie Lunceford. The two have been recording together sporadically for more than 50 years, ever since Mabern’s 1968 debut A Few Miles From Memphis.
The rhythm section’s profound chemistry can hardly be overstated; in addition to their work with Coleman, the three have logged countless hours on stage under Mabern’s leadership and as a quartet with saxophonist Eric Alexander. “I’ve had some great people in my quartets over the years,” Coleman says. “These guys are all great musicians. I don’t have to rehearse with them; we just get on the stand and play, and they keep their ears open.”
That relaxed approach is evident throughout The Quartet, which manages to feel warm and effortless while never for a moment losing the scintillating surprise of in-the-moment discovery. Coleman’s impassioned strains, sounding over Mabern’s emphatic chords, immediately grab the listener’s tension on opener “Paul’s Call,” a new piece dedicated to Smoke Jazz Club owner Paul Stache. The title stems from the deep mutual respect and longstanding friendship held between the saxophonist and the club. Coleman’s quartet opened Smoke in 1999 and has remained a favorite on its stage ever since.
|Brand||Smoke Sessions Records|
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