Phil Freeman, Stereogum

Baritone saxophonist B.J. Jansen has assembled a ferocious band on his tenth album. He’s got Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone, Zaccai Curtis on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Ralph Peterson on drums. These are guys who are serious about pushing the hard bop language into the 21st century and they do it extremely well here, cranking through big, memorable heads and then smoothly trading solos until it’s time to bring it all home. The opener, “Stacey’s Pace,” sets the tone and shows how the band’s approach is just slightly different from purely traditional hard bop: the hard-charging, almost R&B-ish horn melody that opens it gets the energy level up, but the first person to really take a solo is Douglas, the bassist. After that, though, the horns step in: Eubanks, then Jansen, and finally Marsalis. The token ballad, “Soul Loss,” is an excellent showcase for the melodic capabilities of the baritone sax, which is too often relegated to a sort of farting-along background role. I’ve got to point out how awesome Ralph Peterson is, by the way. He’s an absolutely slamming, rock-solid drummer from the Art Blakey/Elvin Jones school, where you feel like he could drown everybody else out if he wanted to and he’s just holding back out of mercy.

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