The name of Alexander McCabe, saxophonist extraordinaire, may need no introduction to the musical cognoscenti. However, for those new to his music, two names heavyweights whose bands he graced may be worth dropping; one is the Ray Charles Orchestra and the other is the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Big Band. The disparate settings should serve to give notice of the depth of Mr McCabe’s experience. Moreover, each of those bands would surely give any musician a workout that could potentially drive him out of his mind – such was the demanding nature of each of those leaders.
Mr McCabe not only got through – scratched and bruised, perhaps, but none the worse for wear nevertheless. At any rate the experience has paid off handsomely and this is eminently in his playing on this album. The title also gives away a bit about the manner in which the saxophonist leans into the music – with body and soul, no less. Typically then, this is a session for a balladeer and Mr McCabe brings this sensibility – this balladry to the entire repertoire, irrespective of the degree of swing infused into the rhythm and tempo. “Elena” introduces us to his fluttering style on the straight horn. Elsewhere, on “Angela” Mr McCabe heart and soul swells so much as to make the music reach an almost spiritual realm, his alto horn lustrous, delicate and feather-light.
The quartet that backs him on this date is an illustrious one. The empathy with which each player reads the other’s mind is extraordinary. This is best experienced on John Coltrane’s “Countdown” which is played at break-neck and with so much heart that it will leave listeners on the edge of their seats whether listening to the horn, the piano, bass or drums. The wail of the alto horn invokes the spirit of another great alto player – the incomparable Jackie Maclean. But make no mistake, this music has Alexander McCabe written all over it. And experiencing the energy and the elegance is not something anyone will forget in a hurry.
Track list – 1: Elena; 2: If I See Here; 3: Christi’s Day; 4: Body & Soul; 6: Angela; 8: Countdown
Personnel – Alexander McCabe: soprano and alto saxophones; Paul Odeh: piano; Ugonna Okegwo: contrabass; Craig Wuepper: drums
Released – 2021
Label – WAMCO Music
Runtime – 42:18