Thanks to the good folks at Posi-Tone records I’ve been receiving their new releases after reviewing Ralph Bowen’s latest in the April issue of Downbeat. Except for the work done by saxophonist Sean Nowell for the label (who happens to be a friend of a friend and a super nice guy) I was pretty unfamiliar with the label’s output, so it’s good to hear the additions the label is making. Based on what I’ve heard recently Posi-Tone is consistently putting out contemporary records which are firmly based in the post-bop tradition. These albums, all recorded by serious and mature players, some of whom aren’t big names (although based on what I’ve heard they deserve to be), swing hard, display drive and intensity, and are all entertaining and rewarding. Here’s the first part of a three part review of new records from Posi-Tone.
Benjamin Drazen: Inner Flights (Posi-Tone PR8076)
Benjamin Drazen, who primarily wields alto on Inner Flights, has synthesized several alto styles and approaches to create an individual voice. His alto tone is both hefty and lithe, able to deftly fly through the changes or take a more heavy, meditative approach. At times I hear Jackie McLean’s bite (but none of McLean’s intonation problems), Kenny Garrett’s swagger and slight growl, and a melodicism, sensitivity and sweetness (especially on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”) that recalls Cannonball and several others. But, despite these influences Drazen sounds like himself. Except for George Gershwin’s “This is New” and “Polka Dots” the album’s compositions are all Drazen’s. “Monkish,” which features a lovely solo stride piano intro by Jon Davis, is just that, Monkish. It settles into a two-beat for a full statement of the head and then moves to a straight ahead medium swing for the solos. I’m a little less taken with “Prayer for Brothers Gone By,” which is a little too similar to Coltrane’s “After the Rain” in mood and style (arco bass, free time, cascading piano runs and lots of cymbal work). It’s done well, but I keep wanting to hear Coltrane’s tune. “Neeney’s Waltz” features a lovely alto and piano ballad introduction before moving to the easy medium waltz. Inner Flights is a solid disc by a young saxophonist who I’d love to hear more from in the future.