A great piano trio transforms into an even finer 4tet with the addition of the great Houston Person on tenor saxophone on four out of the twelve tunes on Joe Alterman's wonderful new release Give Me The Simple Life. An innate gift with a deft touch of swing and a subtle blues infusion makes this Alterman release one of the potential sleepers of the year.
Alterman is a relative newbie fresh from New York University but takes quick command of a set list of some classic standards, some solid original compositions and a rock solid lineup of James Cammack on bass, Herlin Riley on drums and as mentioned some guest shots by the ageless Houston Person who may well be one of the most versitile tenor players to every pick up a horn. Of course what is a good record without great back story? Joe Alterman friended bassist James Cammack on face book ( i site i avoid much like Thanksgiving at my sisters ). Turns out Cammack was already a fan of Alterman then toss in an invitation of Person to check out Alterman's college recital and the rest is history. One of the most compelling parts is the overall sound or as the smooth jazz fan might say vibe of the release. Alterman understands the importance of the tradition of the past but has more than enough chops to push his own musical vision to where straight ahead music is going in the present.
Covers can be a slippery slope or the equivalent of a sonic landmine for some artists. Opening with "Georgia On My Mind" thoughts of Ray Charles and Willie Nelson are running through your mind only to be replaced by a funk fortified fusion of melody and that deceptively subtle hybrid of blues and swing that is Houston Person. Person takes the primary lead but Alterman is quick to show off his formidable skills at the piano bench and grab the listeners undivided attention. This is not your typical churn em and burn em standards record. Oscar Peterson's "Kelly's Blues" also features Person but an intense lyrical sense of direction and a swing you hear with your hips and feel with your feet. Cammack and Riley round out one of the tighter rhythm sections and are key is pushing the sound. Alterman gives a virtuoso performance based on groove and some interesting harmonic variations that are borderline infectious. Closing with one of the best tunes "I'm Yours" is a wistful ballad of tenderness and longing played straight from the heart. Alterman's own composition "Biscuits" is seemingly a Fats Domino inspired slightly New Orleans flavored tune where Alterman performs at a blistering pace and flawlessly. That degree from New York University was indeed money well spent.
Accessible yet oddly eclectic in parts, Joe Alterman and Give Me The Simple Life is old school becoming new cool. The future of jazz is in good hands with Joe Alterman!
Tracks: Georgia On My Mind; Give Me The Simple Life; The First Night Home; Pure Imagination; An Affair To Remember; I Guess I'll Have To Dream The Rest; Kelly's Blues; Why Try To Change Me Now; Why Do I Love You; Biscuits; They Say It's Spring; I'm Yours.
Personnel: Joe Alterman: piano; James Cammack: bass; Herlin Riley: drums; Houston Person: tenor saxophone (1,3,6,7).