This is straight-ahead, no bullshit, true blue, full-on trad jazz that skillfully blends melodics with improv so that no song is ever lost at any point. That's becoming more and more a rarity as players tend to inject their own personality and bravura into basic comps serving as springboards for other intents, all of which is fine, often delectable, but constitutes a whole 'nother approach. Not the case here, which is why the cuts were selected (two of them originals) as they were. Though a fairly liberal element of Mingus era interplay and soloing is present, all of that is leashed to each track's dynamics and imagery. In fact, Heckman's basic inspiration is John Coltrane, that much was quite clear in his previous releases, but it's just as evident, by weight of presentation in Born to be Blue, that he's most fully absorbed into John's early period before the mighty saxist stretched his intellect towards Mars and beyond.
Guitarist Howard Alden possesses skoobly-op fingers and concocts many an intriguing riff and passage. He's basically from the Kessell / Ellis / Green school but has put a whole lot more into his adaptive process, especially in playing with time. He can slow down to Szabo mode, each note its own statement, or riff up into complicated patterns. Pianist Matt Clark displays a bright upbeat timbre, even in layback laconics, such as the opening of the title track. The rhythm section, Marcus Shelby (Bass) and Akira Tana (drums), melts into the background, laying down very pleasant atmospheres the rest of the ensemble works out from. But it's Heckman who's the real foreground figure and, in this disc, occupies a seat in the Klemmer / Turrentine / Barbieri (without all Gato's early-career blare and top end) / Desmond stratum with touches of Osby and Coleman.
Heckman's been lauded by no less stellar figures than Stan Getz, Pharoah Sanders, and Charles Lloyd, among others, so this gives you an idea of what stratum he occupies. As I started out saying, this is a genuine trad jazz effort and will be noted not only for its faithfulness to the era whilst fulfilling personal modes, something that was a staple even in such disciplined arenas, but also for a requotation of the refined vivacities that so often marked the epoch and are nearly dim memories now. And Heckman could use a lot more company in this diminishing work-field.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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