The Heavy Hitters: The Heavy Hitters

Band including Jeremy Pelt, Vincent Herring, Eric Alexander and Mike LeDonne shows there's still plenty of creative mileage in hard bop


There’s little hype in this band’s name because the band consists of musicians who are still finding things to say in the hard bop tradition. Given the style’s longevity, that’s no mean feat. There is arguably the basis for a more nuanced approach to the music given that it can be played “professionally” or “professionally with depths of personality that elevate the music above the well-worn norm”.

In this instance, for example, it’s clear that Vincent Herring’s growth has taken him beyond the influence of Cannonball Adderley that was once notable in his work, and in finding his own way he’s become a most persuasive advocate of the music that clearly moves him. That’s evident here on LeDonne’s pleasingly sassy Silverdust, dedicated to Horace Silver by way of further signalling the hard bop affiliation.

Herring’s sincerity is by no means unique. Pelt burns in a fashion both time-honoured and timeless on Hub, dedicated to Freddie Hubbard, and in so doing reminds us of another traditional strand that takes in everyone from Lee Morgan to Tom Harrell, with salutes to Booker Little, Donald Byrd and Carmell Jones along the way.

Alexander’s harmonic skill in some respects echoes that of Hank Mobley, although inevitable differences spring from different musical personalities. That said, his work on Big Richard – his own composition and dedicated to his late father – finds him switching to alto saxophone and bringing his lyricism to bear.

The rhythm section is equal to every demand and alert to every nuance, but then the work of such sincere professionals is never going to be otherwise.

Hub; New Day; Silverdust; Un Día Es Un Día; Big Richard; Chainsaw; This Is Something New; Cedar Land; Bluesit (59.34)
Jeremy Pelt (t); Vincent Herring (as); Eric Alexander (ts); Mike LeDonne (p); Peter Washington (b); Kenny Washington (d); Rale Micic (g) on Chainsaw. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 8 and 9 May 2022.
Cellar Music CM070122