Hail to Smoke Sessions Records for the ongoing series of recordings entitled “The Smoke Sessions” The releases explore work by remarkable artists who have made significant contributions to Jazz. This entry is by the saxophonist Vincent Herring, who cut his teeth with the great Cedar Walton. It is a single disc recital that also pays tribute to his old mentor, Mr. Walton with a composition by the pianist on the date, Mike LeDonne. These delectable miniatures – some receiving their first recordings – are bound to charm the listener.
Vincent Herring is a virtuoso saxophonist and, if it was not that evident before, it is now also clear that he is a composer of considerable talent. The two songs – “The Adventures of Hyun Joo Lee”, which is based on the changes of John Coltrane’s “Countdown”, and “Smoking Paul’s Stash”, a funny, roistering (as usual) number that also pokes fun at himself – are proof that Mr. Herring is a master of idiomatic, fast changes and also of melodic invention. Of course, the fact that he has not laid down more original tracks here does not demean the record in any manner. On the contrary, the repertoire and how it is tackles here points to the fact that Vincent Herring has a wonderful, melodic grace, poetry and whimsy as well as harmonic invention.
Vincent Herring is heard only on alto saxophone here. For the record, he is an amazing soprano player as well. I would go so far as to posit that he has few peers on both instruments. He plays with great power, size and warmth. The music here is so appealing and varied in form and mood that it’s impossible to resist its visceral magic. Vincent Herring’s bebop chops are especially captivating as are his ballads and other rhythmic metaphors. It is no wonder that he is the toast of his peers and may be heard in several settings – including Afro-Cuban ones. That fact may not be so unexpected actually as Vincent Herring is a Jazz Master.
The other performers also approach these gems as if they adore every note. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt wraps his voluptuous sound around Mr. Herring’s melodies and tosses of the occasional acrobatic feat with panache. Canada’s own Brandi Disterheft is also a terrific bassist and partner, but she really takes off when she packs nuanced and crisp artistry into her deeply sonorous bass lines. Mike LeDonne is a pianist of quintessential lyricism and his lines are often transcendental and almost mystical. And Joe Farnsworth drums with a glorious melodicist’s sensibility. This is a highly enjoyable disc, essential to a collector of fine music.
Track List: Grind Hog’s Day; Night and Day; The Adventures of Hyun Joo Lee; Walton; The Gypsy; Fly, Little Bird, Fly; Wabash; Theme for Jobim; There is Something about You (I Don’t Know); Smoking Paul’s Stash.
Personnel: Vincent Herring: alto saxophone; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (1, 3, 4, 6, 8. 10); Mike LeDonne: piano; Brandi Disterheft: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.
About Vincent Herring
Vincent is a saxophone virtuoso with a uniquely intense and vigorous musical voice. He is considered one of the premier saxophonists of his generation. Vincent first toured Europe and the United States with Lionel Hampton’s big band in the early 1980’s. As he developed his musicianship working with Nat Adderley, a partnership blossomed that continued for nine years. Along the way he worked and/or recorded with Cedar Walton, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Hayes, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Horace Silver Quintet, Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, Larry Coryell, Steve Turre, The Mingus Big Band, Kenny Barron, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Billy Taylor, Carla Bley, and John Hicks. Read more…