Seattle-based saxophonist Hadley Caliman returns to the recording studio with his working band for Straight Ahead
, the follow-up to his superb Gratitude
(Origin, 2008). Aided by trumpeter/producer Thomas Marriott, pianist Eric Verlinde, bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Matt Jorgensen, the 78-year old Caliman charges head-on through a set of standards, jazz classics and original gems.
The disc opens with the listener-friendly "Cigar Eddie," an old school boogaloo -- Caliman wrote the tune in the 1960s while living in Los Angeles -- with a sly melodic line and ultra-funky groove. The clever toe tapper features brief, to-the-point blowing from Caliman, Marriott and Verlinde. Harold Land's quasi Afro-Cuban piece "Rapture" follows with even more high energy accessibility; inspired, compact solos bookended by a straightforward theme.
There is a consistent flow of lyricism from Caliman's horn on the session's two ballads, "You Leave Me Breathless" and "Lush Life." The leader handles these two harmonically-rich gems with the kind of seasoned finesse to be expected from a dedicated veteran of jazz service. Adding to these exceptional ballad performances is Verlinde's sensitive, swinging piano accompaniment.
Vibraphonist Joe Locke, who appeared on Gratitude
, contributes "Blues for PT," a hard driving minor blues that finds Marriott and Verlinde in top form. The up-tempo swinger stands out as a disc highlight. Lee Morgan's "Totem Pole" is done in similar fashion to the original 1963 recording of the tune from The Sidewinder
(Blue Note). Here, Caliman matches his bold tenor tone with stylized wit, recalling the hip quirkiness of Joe Henderson.
A spirited run down of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" closes out the proceedings with Caliman flying effortlessly through the familiar jam session staple, propelled by Jorgensen's swinging drums and Sparks rock-solid bass. The ensemble's energy is inexorable and, as the disc's title proclaims, undeniably straight-ahead.