Steve Slagle's Evensong has a lot in common with Dempsy/Ferguson's just released Beautiful Friendship (here): the comps are similar, the instruments are the same, the blend of straight-ahead and abstraction artfully blended, and both go one hell of a long way in expanding sax borders that have too long been mainstreamed into impotence. Slagle frequently reminds me of Dave Liebman while quitarist Dave Stryker veers more in the direction of Wayne Johnson and John Abercrombie than what the Dempsey/Ferguson quartet's axehandler, Tom Dempsey, heads for: the Wes Montgomery / Pat Martino / etc. meadows. Still, there's lot of common ground 'twixt the twain, not to mention re-evocations of tastes and flavors in danger of being left behind in the rush to go post-modern in other ensembles (which, uh, I love, but ya gotta 'member where we came from!). Add to that the oft very lively bass work of Ed Howard alongside McClenty Hunter's rolling drumwork—here subtle and sussurant, there dazzling and gentlemanly in-your-face—and you have all the ingredients for a really solid hour-long excursion away from contempo-nu-populo-hippo-zippo jazz lite and back into the meat of things.
Slagle has no trouble whatsoever in recalling his roots and even claims Mingus came to him in a dream, providing the first bar of Mingus in Us, and I've no cause to doubt that: it'd be just like Charlie to pull a cool stunt like that even from beyond the grave. Steve also makes note of the coincidence of his and Coltrane's Virgo natures re: Equal Nox, and, being of the ilk myself, it goes far to explain the gent's meticulously convoluted wont, perfectionistic and hip simultaneously. The main attraction though is the Slagle/Stryker duet and, like Dempsey and Joel Frahm, they fit like hand in glove, Stryker exceedingly dexterous in shading Slagle's moods in laconic minor chords and noir runs. Then Howard and Hunter are let loose in the background, sometimes in the foreground, and re-set the balance, evening the quartet keel. Some traditions were never meant to be lost.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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