By Frank Alkyer | Published January 2024
If you are not familiar with the bass work of Gerald Cannon, now’s a good time to get hip. A disciple of the great Milt Hinton, Cannon knows how to walk a bass line, as he does with elegant swing on “EJ’s Blues,” the opening track to his latest recording, Live At Dizzy’s Club: The Music Of Elvin And McCoy. Elvin, of course, is the late, great Elvin Jones (1927–2004), who Cannon played with for nine years. “EJ’s Blues,” one of the Hall of Fame drummer’s signature tunes, leaves plenty of blowing room for members of the all-star cast assembled for these proceedings. Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, trombonist Steve Turre, alto saxophonist Sherman Irby and pianist Dave Kikowski all swing hard and heartily on this opening number. And it’s all held down by the great Lenny White on the drum kit. Cannon pulled this cast together for a tribute to Jones, and to another venerated jazz artist, pianist McCoy Tyner (1938–2020), who Cannon played with for 14 years. The eight-track program includes two Jones vehicles, a Cannon original and five pieces penned by Tyner. Tyner’s “Search For Peace” seems hauntingly appropriate in these troubled times. His “Blues In The Minor” kicks with some powerful unison horn lines and White delivers a sizzling drum solo. “Contemporary Focus” tells us all we need to know about Cannon; his bass solo steals the tune. And the band sends us off with a kick-ass version of Tyner’s “Inception.” Kikowski fills in admirably on piano. He’s fit and fleet in the role, playing the tune as his own, all the while showing utmost respect to its creator. This listener’s favorite tune on the record is the Cannon original called “Three Elders.” It’s a beautiful ballad that opens with Henderson’s plaintive trumpet and the shimmer of White’s cymbals, settling into a noir, pull-at-the-heartstrings tempo. He wrote it in honor of Elvin and McCoy, but the third elder referred to in the title is Cannon’s longtime friend and bandmate, pianist Larry Willis, who passed away in 2019. Willis and Cannon were stalwarts in Roy Hargrove’s band in the late ’90s and early 2000s. It’s a fitting and fond tribute. If you need a pick-me-up to help you find your New Year’s groove, Gerald Cannon and this band delivers.