By Ed Enright | Published September 2019
Veteran East Coast tenor saxophonist George Garzone seldom has sounded more inventive and impassioned than on this new three-CD collection, recorded live in January at Los Angeles’ new jazz club Sam First over the course of three nights with drummer Peter Erskine, pianist Alan Pasqua and bassist Derek Oles. The group chemistry at work during these performances was equal parts sensitivity and combustibility, a balance of wide-open looseness and masterful precision. It all hinges on the group’s penchant to swing relentlessly while exploring a vast realm of expressive possibilities informed by each player’s considerable depth of experience.
The quartet stretches out on blowing vehicles like “Invitation,” “I’ll Remember April,” “Like Someone In Love,” “I Hear A Rhapsody” and, in three different takes, “Have You Met Miss Jones?” Other highlights include a creative reading of John Coltrane’s “Equinox,” five originals by Garzone and one tune apiece by Erskine, Pasqua and Oles (whose medium-tempo swinger “The Honeymoon” appears in two versions).
Garzone is in rare form, radiating minor-key modal lyricism, emotionally charged balladry, angular uptempo blues and straightahead bebop teeming with tenor toughness—as only he can. Erskine is a consistently refreshing catalyst for this most fortunate meeting of monsters; Oles is pitch-perfect and rock-steady throughout; and Pasqua’s less-is-more approach to the keys provides contemporary harmonic and melodic context while leaving adequate space for magic to unfold around him. This substantial offering of four jazz masters communicating in a highly evolved common language—and playing at the absolute top of their game—is one for the books.