This is the seasoned Herring’s fifth album as leader for Smoke Sessions and while it doesn’t cover any new ground, the potential listener is assured of a thoroughly enjoyable experience in the hands of a saxophonist who rarely fails to deliver.
His early experiences with Lionel Hampton and Nat Adderley gave Herring the grounding all superior musicians can only ever benefit from – in his case leading to his status as one of the most respected altoists extant.
All of the 10 performances here tend to follow a pattern – i.e., leader plays the theme before taking off into a solo flight with Chestnut taking over the limelight thereafter. It’s a formula that in these assured hands never becomes tedious. This is modern jazz that swings, using material that contains originals in addition to tunes from a variety of sources.
The leader is equally at home squeezing every last drop out of Lionel Richie’s Hello or breathing new life into an old warhorse such as Old Devil Moon. The uptempo blues that is Wes Montgomery’s Fried Pies is tailor-made for a man that likes nothing more than to wail on slightly earthier options. He is matched on that trio of compositions and elsewhere by the always rewarding Chestnut, who like his leader has now been plying his trade successfully over a number of decades.
The tandem of Nakamura and Blake supply all that could be asked of them on two days of recording, producing a disc worth returning to time and again. This is yet another Smoke Sessions release difficult to ignore.
Dudli’s Dilemma; Old Devil Moon; Ojos De Rojo; Hello; Fried Pies; Minor Swing; In A Sentimental Mood; Preaching To The Choir; Granted; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (65.42)
Herring (as); Cyrus Chestnut (p); Yasushi Nakamura (b); Johnathan Blake (d). New York, 20 & 21 November 2020.
Smoke Sessions SSR-2101