Origin Records has been putting out a ton of stuff these days, and mostly good stuff÷real good, in fact. It's more than I can ever listen to, and if you talented cats in Seattle are reading this÷I really appreciate it. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite "new" guys is now with you, and his name is Alex Graham.
Hold on to this dude. He's truly on his way to making an indelible mark in the jazz world as on of the upcoming monsters. Yup, he's that good.
I very favorably reviewed his first CD, "Grand," in the November 2005 newsletter and found it to be so, like its title÷grand. That was more of a New Orleans-styled jazzy r&b band with a cool singer and, as always, Alex's inspired signature horn, with such luscious tone and impeccable phrasing. It's not often that an artist's second effort will impress as much as my introduction to him or her, especially if it's really a killer debut out of the chute. With "The Good Life" and an entirely different back-up ensemble, Alex Graham has done it again, and in spades. Recorded back in 1998, this is truly a dynamite piece of work from beginning to end. I know that when, right after I listen to a new CD, I immediately have to hear it again before checking out another musician's hopeful entry lying in wait among so many others.
It's another no-frills, straight-ahead jazz album played to perfection, and a song selection to match. Alex on alto, flute and clarinet is brilliantly supported by this trio of solid senders. A newcomer to me, Rick Roe at the piano is simply a delight with his understated comping that still speaks mightily. That mega-chopster bassist Rodney Whitaker walks you into the next stratosphere and is so connected to drummer Joe Strasser on this session, you'd think they were musical Siamese twins... tight, man, tight. This triple-threat trio becomes this Hummer of a magic carpet for Mr. Graham to float and soar above÷ and does he ever!
There are two originals and four covers, including one of the prettiest versions of "I Had the Craziest Dream" that has ever been recorded. This is an above-standard standard, by all means. The average length of each track is nearly 10 minutes, enough time for these timeless cats to really stretch and blow and present you with one of best jazz albums of 2005-6, even if it was recorded nearly eight years ago. It's way better late than never, and "The Good Life" will be required listening for the ages.