Steve Heckman again plays that full rich tenor sax in his latest outing, a CD boasting notes and tones so fat and golden you can practically pick them out of the air like ripe apples, the sort of sensuous pre-Raphaelite atmospherics that issued from Dexter Gordon, earning that latter cat his nickname: The Sound (listen particularly to slabs like Dex's Ballads). Search for Peace is in fact a return back through decades to a time when this kind of classy gig was establishing itself as a main force. Guitarist Howard Alden, however, tends to go a good deal more bop, and this pulls Heckman up from the rain slick streets into night skies where he cavorts like an patrolling owl who just got ahold of the expresso left on outdoor tables by cafe patrons who decided to amble off, seeking conversation and companionship.
Then Matt Clark and his B-3 call back up from the boulevard, echoing the convoluted lines that tempted the sax player to play Icarus, taking him back down to cobblestones and water grates whence Steve dances about until the streetlights go dim and it's time for home and rest. You can, trust me on this, hear all of that in the Quintet's version of Monk's Pannonica, and a good deal more than that throughout Search for Peace. Marcus Shelby (bass) and Akira Tana (drums) keep a calm, cool, and collected rhythm section going, lively enough as the pulse and backbeat but understated and supportive while the three front instruments hold sway.
Heckman's own Hangin' at Slug's is one of the more swingingly fluid tracks, the longest of the pack, infectious. Plenty of room is given for the foreground trio to solo in every song, trading off licks in succession, and Spiral returns the sax player more to the Barbieri sounds heard last time out (again: sans Gato's strident side) in 2013's Born to be Blue. The band ducked into the famed Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Calif., for this outing, so the documentation is both smoky and crystalline simultaneously. If you're looking for ECM or Japo, forget it, this is far more Blue Note than anything else and dedicated to preservation rather than future trending. At this point in time, the task is going both ways (mainly, I think, because something big is fairly soon to happen in music, something unexpected, and everyone's preparing for it), so thank God those who've undertaken either duty are blessed with the acumen to do so with aplomb and finesse.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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