By Michael J. West | Published July 2019
Hard-bop has proved remarkably resilient, outlasting nearly all of its 1950s-generation innovators and standard-bearers. Perhaps it’s simply because hearing a well-constructed, soulful phrase come together never goes out of style. Certainly, the Vancouverite alto saxophonist Cory Weeds seems to have embraced that philosophy.
On Live At Frankie’s Jazz Club, Weeds brings in a couple of ringers—trumpeter Terell Stafford and pianist Harold Mabern—to work with his stalwart rhythm section. As expected, they both add splendor to the music. Mabern is exquisite in both his extended intro and bells-like solo on the ballad “Fabienne”; the technical and imaginative brilliance of Stafford’s six blues choruses on Lee Morgan’s “Bluesanova” is jaw-dropping. But Weeds’ hard-bop erudition rivals either of those two, and he’s ready for them. Listening to his alto lines come together on “Mood Malody” or “Gypsy Blue” brings the pleasure of watching a master sculptor or craftsman at work.
There’s a clear chemistry at play in this quintet, apparent in the deep-pocketed “Formidable” and “Up Tight’s Creek.” On both these hard-chargers, the mutual respect of the three front-liners also is clear: After Weeds finishes on “Formidable,” Stafford pauses, waiting for applause, then essentially picks up where the saxophonist left off. Weeds, meanwhile, doesn’t try to follow the trumpeter’s valediction on “Up Tight’s Creek,” instead forging a new beginning, leaving Mabern to bridge the solos with his marvelous ear for detail.
Live At Frankie’s Jazz Club: Bluesanova; Mood Malody; Gypsy Blue; Consequence; Fabienne; Formidable; Up Tight’s Creek; Tolypso; The Three Minors. (65:16)
Personnel: Cory Weeds, alto saxophone; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Harold Mabern, piano; Michael Glynn, bass; Julian MacDonough, drums.