Ordinarily, I would not write about an album that had multiple principal players, for the simple reason that the amount of writing involved to do justice to more than one or two “stars” is beyond the scope of this humble blog.
With that said, this week’s album has not one, not two, or even three, but FIVE main players. You are hereby warned that, rather than write about each of them myself, I am going to provide links to other sites where you can learn more about these gentlemen.
In one of the odd coincidences of life, the one among them who has been featured here before is the one who seems to have fallen into the deepest, darkest pit of obscurity imaginable. In my review, if you chose to click the link above, you will note a reference to his eponymous web site; unfortunately, it no longer exists.
The other members of this group have had mixed results, career-wise, since the release of their only collaboration album, “Alone Together,” which was released on the Antilles label in 1991.
At the conclusion of this review you will find a link to a 2011 blog post from Curt Jazz detailing the then-current state of these musicians careers.
The Tough Young Tenors consists of the following five blowers and a rhythm section.
The sax players :
Walter Blanding Jr.
Time Warfield Jr.
The rhythm section:
Marcus Roberts, piano
Reginald Veal, bass
Ben Riley, drums
“Alone Together” opens with “Jim Dog,” a great song that I was, frankly, surprised to note was written by Richard Carpenter. Yes, I do mean that Richard Carpenter, formerly one half (with his late sister, Karen) of one of the hottest pop groups in music history, The Carpenters. “Jim Dog” is a delightful song that opens with Roberts quietly tinkling on the piano (don’t say it) before the horns come one and take over.
Here are the boys performing “Jim Dog”:
“Just You, Just Me” is next. This one was written by Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages, and it, like “Alone Together,” is a great little song that I’m certain will please you. Riley gets a little time in, especially during the quite opening. Then things pick up and before you know it we’re movin’ right along.
Here is “Just You, Just Me”:
Jumping ahead to track five we find a Hank Mobley song, “The Break Through.” One tenor and pianist Roberts take the head for an opening that quickly moves from quiet to energetic. In the true spirit of all great melodic jazz, “The Break Through” is a delight from start to finish.
Listen to “The Break Through” here:
Next up is the McCoy Tyner composition, “Blues On The Corner.” This song, which Tyner has said elsewhere is a musical portrait of his childhood, sounds like the kind of song you could have heard Sonny Stitt or Gene Ammons doing a tenor battle with in the 1970’s. There are no such dramatics here, just a simple, straightforward playing of a wonderful song that is by turns dramatic and introspective, wild and tame, boisterous and quiet.
Here is “Blues On The Corner”:
Speaking of Sonny Stitt, what would a tenor sax quintet album be without something to remind us of one of the instrument’s all time greats? For one thing, it would only have ten songs instead of eleven. It would also have a heck of a lot less sax appeal. (Ahem. Sorry.) “Alone Together” ends with the Stitt tune, “The Eternal Triangle.” This one jumps right out of the starting gate and dares you to keep up.
Last but definitely not least, here is “The Eternal Triangle”:
After listening to all 65+ minutes of “Alone Together” multiple times, I feel quite confident in telling you that I believe you will find this album from the Tough Young Tenors to be a wonderful addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night! 🙂
To find out more about the fantastic artists who recorded this album, click the links attached to their names above.
Finally, to find out what became of the five principals (as of September, 2011), here is a short blog post on Curt’s Jazz Café.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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