I recently reviewed alto saxophonist Vincent Herring's Morning Star for Jazz Times. Click here to go directly to the review, which appeared in the magazine's September issue, or read the full text below.
Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz, Morning Star (Challenge)
Shades of the Headhunters, Weather Report, the Crusaders and, not surprisingly, Cannonball Adderley's electric-jazz releases color the sound of Vincent Herring's Earth Jazz Agents (here, minus the Agents"), the gifted alto saxophonist's working funk and fusion quartet.
Yes, it all feels like a bit of a time warp, but the sonic setting hardly keeps the postbopper and his bandmates earthbound. To the contrary: Their work on Morning Star uses '70s-style fusion and groove-jazz as a launching pad for some oft-intriguing work, built on textures and rhythms that come off as alternately smooth and roughand that's a compliment.
Coltrane's Naima" is reworked with a steadily churning backbeat, fueled by the snaking rhythms of bassist Richie Goods and drummer Joris Dudli, and Herring's probing solo. Mulgrew Miller's laidback funk stroll Soul Leo," spiked with slow-mo bass slapping and popping and pianist Anthony Wonsey's warm electric piano and synthesizer, hints at Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man." And Rodgers Grant's title track is a pensive ballad.
But the band's own compositions dominate the set, starting with Wonsey's multicolored, segmented Do You Remember Me?" and the sprawling, atmospheric Black Fairytales," a showcase for Herring's sensitive soprano explorations. Wonsey gives his The Thang" a deep-funk remix, replete with bluesy organ and wah-wah bass.
Dudli contributes a pair of pieces, the rather sedate mid-tempo groover Tom Tom" and You Got Soul," a gospel-tinged piece that sounds like a lost Ray Charles gem. Herring's sole contribution, Never Forget," is relaxation in action, something that might be said about much of the album.
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