Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Steve Heckman Born To Blue Jazzed Media 2013


After totally digging the cover art the release takes off from that point. Whimsical? Not really...Minimalist? Maybe...Pure grade fun would be the name of the game here and Steve Heckman may well be the finest tenor player you have never heard of. Toss in famed guitarist Howard Aldem and you have a 4 and 5tet offering that is next to impossible to beat. Don't just take my word for it as Stan Getz said "Beautiful". Charles Lloyd that Heckman was a beautiful talent and Pharoah Sanders summed it up with, "This cat can play." Lyrically intense or perhaps specific Born to Be Blue is a deceptively subtle work of soulful nuances that aid in the sonic celebration and collaboration amongst this ensemble.

Sounds like? A question that while fair and logical is inherently unfair and in some cases self defeating but for those of you unfamiliar with Heckman's work then think Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Hank Mobley in a jazz scientific experiment that went  horribly right. This being Heckman's third release there is a darker more grounded sound that permeates the recording. Introspective, intimate and intensely lyrical best describe one of 2013 better releases. Another aspect of why the recording is so "right" would be Heckman going from tenor to Bb and bass clarinet for an organic statement that avoids the typical pretentiousness but instead highlights the layers of sonic flavor and interpersonal communication between ensemble members for that eclectic type gem that overflow with realism and sidesteps the "one-note" types symbolism that similar releases seem to linger in.

The band is an "A" list group bordering between the front and center sideman to artists that could double as leaders in their own right. Howard Alden is on guitar with a rhythm section including Akira Tana on drums, bassist Marcus Shelby and pianist Matt Clark. One incredibly important influence is that of Heckman's exposure to Coltrane at age 15. Worlds seamless split apart both musical and otherwise as a richness and dimension emerge that had dramatic effect on both his own composition and playing as well.

Born To Be Blue is as the title indicates, a significant milestone where the artist walks the fine line between an improvisational blues oriented approach and a hard bop attitude. This is a stealth recording, unless you review recordings for a living or don't mind playing musical prospector it would be easy to miss. Otherwise, Born To Be Blue can strike with deadly force and for those (especially tenor players) that love the more straight ahead blues oriented gem then you would have to be tone deaf not to appreciate this stellar recording. From a straight ahead groove, to smoldering lyricism to the more funky side of the blues there is something here for everyone.

Tracks: Alone Together; Moon and Sand; Andrew's Pate; Born To Be Blue; How Deep Is The Ocean; I Thought About You; We Will Meet Again; The Things We Did Last Summer; I Remember Zoot; Lazy Afternoon; Without A Song.