One of the UK's best loved saxophonists tackles the work of hard bop hero Horace Silver.
Peter Marsh 2005-05-31
Alan Barnes is usually tagged with the rather unglamorous term 'mainstream'. True, you're unlikely to find him hanging out with Norwegian experimentalists, string quartets or DJs, issuing an album of Radiohead cover versions or rediscovering the joys of punk rock, but there's plenty of other people doing that kind of thing these days...
Like Peter King, Barnes is steeped in the language of bop, but is such a consummate stylist that his playing tends to buck any argument that his musical approac his conservative or out of step with the times. Whether on alto, baritone or tenor, Barnes' melodic sense bypasses the usual scale-running cliches that pepper the playing of lesser bop disciples.
Here Barnes pays tribute to hard bop pianist/composer Horace Silver. Pianist John Donaldson has transcribed all the pieces, which are mainly taken from the classic Blue Note quintet recordings of the early 60s. Donaldson's crisply funky playing is a neat fit with Silver's soulful, airy tunes, but his occasional Tyner-esque splashes take the energy level up a notch. Trumpeter Steve Waterman (an eclectic, technically assured player)takes the Blue Mitchell role with relish. Fat-toned, precise and fiery, he's a perfect foil for the leader.
While there are only two ballads here, they provide Barnes' best moments. Donaldson's lucid, Bill Evans-esque chording inspires a sweetly poignant reading of "Lonely Woman", while the opening of "Peace" features a meltingly gorgeous statement on alto, accompanied only by Dave Green's ever thoughtful bass. One of my favourite musical moments of the year so far, I reckon.
Not that the uptempo numbers are in any way shabby; the band kick up some serious dust at times and of course Barnes enjoys working at speed - check the furious solo on "Finger Poppin'" for details. This is assured,beautifully played jazz. It won't change the world, perhaps, but who cares.