Elias Haslanger alternates between crooning through and then manhandling his instrument, the tenor sax, depending on how far into his head and the groove he is. Watermelon Man is a good example. The cut intros all sweet and pretty, and then guitarist Jake Langley be-bops a nice long solo until Haslanger steps in and starts parsing the melody, persistently breaking it down, letting Ray Charles' long-time music director Dr. James Polk step in on B-3 to wring the deconstruction to its essence just before everything swings back around to what commenced it all. Ah, but that still doesn't settle the matter, as Haslanger starts wailin' again until the track nails itself shut.
I Thought About You doesn't waste time, opening with the saxist tossing the tune from stem to stern until giving things over again to Langley. That cat lays back into the understructure, cool and collected but still swingin', finally catching fire and nimblefretting. Goin' Down', on the other hand, keeps much more to the balladic side of things, at least at first, but Haslanger isn't one to let an opportunity slip by and tunes the atmosphere up as the accompanists remain on the mello in the background, letting him have his head. The audience, of course, loves it, and let all and sundry know through fulsome hooting and clapping.
Live at the Gallery is good time jazz, and that's always best heard outside the studio 'cause it's so much more infectious that way, what with its rapports with, to, and from the crowd, everything amping up in exhilarating directions. Whenever the ensemble plays a local gig, it's SRO 'cause the townies know what's what. Elias learned a few things when he toured with Maynard Ferguson, who wasn't exactly a Gloomy Gus either. He also worked with Ellis Marsalis, and that gained him world recognition, so the gent seems poised on the brink of The Big Time. My favorite cut? There's two actually: Song for my Father is an all-time raver for me no matter who tackles it (if you want to hear an obscure but killer take besides this one, check out Larry Williams' version), and the sax player does the song proud, but I'm also enamored with his coverage of Misty, as it's dutiful and irreverent simultaneously…my kinda shakedown.
No writing credits are given on the CD, and I long ago decided that if the artist or label couldn't be bothered to do credits properly, then I wasn't going to drag my ass all over internet locating the writers either (so there too!). However, the average jazzhead should recognize the standards.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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