By John Murph | Published October 2020
Charles McPherson’s bright, citrusy tone on alto saxophone, alluring lyricism and graceful improvisations are in splendid form on Jazz Dance Suites, an album consolidating originals derived from commissions he wrote for the San Diego Ballet.
Given that dance played a crucial role in the conception of the tunes here, it’s no surprise that McPherson’s deft sense of rhythmic agility and phrasing animate much of the disc. And there’s no programmatic heaviness dampening the proceedings as he leads a nimble septet through a dynamic range of compositions that move from sumptuous ballads to spirited sambas. Two works—Song Of Songs, a suite inspired by the Old Testament and the Afro-Latin tinged Sweet Synergy Suite—occupy much of the album and contain sublime material. “Wedding Song” arrives as a lithe samba gem, and “Thinking of You,” an amorous ballad, pairs McPherson’s sleek melodies with Yotam Silberstein’s full-bodied guitar lines.
As a still-vibrant jazz veteran with ties to innovators like Charles Mingus and Lionel Hampton, McPherson’s writing carries on the traditional weight of bebop and swing, buoyed with an inventive, contemporary spark.
Jazz Dance Suites: Love Dance; Heart’s Desire; Wedding Song; Hear My Plea; Thinking Of You; After The Dance; Praise; The Gospel Truth; Reflection On An Election; Sweet Synergy; Delight; Nightfall; Marionette—1995; Song Of The Sphinx; Tropic Of Capricorn. (68:01)
Personnel: Charles McPherson, alto saxophone; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Jeb Patton, Randy Porter, piano; Yotam Silberstein, guitar; David Wong, bass; Billy Drummond, drums; Lorraine Castellanos, vocals.