In one word: Impressive. Alex Graham's The Good Life showcases not only his ability as a reedman but as an improviser, composer and arranger. Backed by a veteran New York rhythm section, Graham shows hints of Dexter Gordon and Horace Silver throughout the six compositions. Additionally, Graham's talents are furthered by the inclusion of two original tunes thrown in with four created by other artists.
While Graham is an alto saxophonist by trade he adds the flute and clarinet to his repertoire on the original opening number "Push." The intro to this tune is composed of an interplay between Graham's three reeds before finally rolling into the meat of the composition. Unfortunately, Graham leaves both the flute and the clarinet with this tune and carries only the alto throughout the rest of the tracks. The next to last tune "Explosion" is another Graham-penned composition; and it is just that...an explosion. This quick-paced snappy tune is rich with influence from some of the great sixties jazz hits. It is clearly one of the best on the CD with each individual artist being allowed to showcase their abilities.
The rest of the compositions are a few great jazz tunesăMack Gordon and Harry Warren's tune "I Had the Craziest Dream," Wayne Shorter's "It's a Long Way Down," Sacha Distel and Jack Reardon's "The Good Life" and Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night." The band's collective sound is best during "On a Misty Night" where Graham, while still the headliner, allows his band members to highlight their talent a bit more than on previous tracks. During "It's a Long Way Down" the up-tempo beat brings the rhythm section into line giving Graham a bouncy back beat to the tune.
Graham may not be in line with Cannonball Adderly, Charlie Parker or John Coletrane but he's good...real good. While the artistry is beyond proficient, the tunes are probably more suited for a nice evening in rather than for a hip party on a weekend night. This CD is meant to be savored like a fine wine. Treat it as such and it will do you right.