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The Jazz Word’s John Barron on Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

“Christmas Gift,” the opening track from alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius’ disc Maybe Steps, bursts forth with voluminous strength, only to be quickly subdued by a deliberate dynamic shift. A more gradual, upward surge in intensity is heard on the brief, soulful swaying of “Bella’s Dreaming.” Perhaps not a groundbreaking approach to modern jazz composition, but the idea of using dynamics to enhance the music is a trait sadly missing from the wealth of mainstream disc’s being released. It is this type of attention to detail in presentation that helps Cornelius create a unique ensemble sound, placing his writing on equal footing with soloing.

Cornelius’ playing can be cutting and bold in one moment and soft and wistful in another. Capable of drawing out lengthy, winding lines, shaped with sense and purpose, he demonstrates schooled technique and street-savvy phrasing. Pianist Gerald Clayton solos wonderfully and accompanies with a sensitivity and grace beyond his years, holding things tightly in place with bassist Peter Slavov and drummer Kendrick Scott. Guitarist Miles Okazaki joins the quartet for a few tunes with blistering lyricism, especially on the breezy Latin groove of “Into the Stars” and a cover of George Shearing’s “Conception.”

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Richard Kamins reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps” for StepTempest…

To paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, “the best laid schemes of reviewers and home owners can be washed away by the eye of a storm.”  I was hoping to get a slew of reviews posted before Hurricane Irene arrived but, alas, that did not occur.  So, in the interest of time (yes, school is back in session and papers are waiting to be read), here’s a brief look at several excellent new recordings.

I have received a slew of new releases that have impressed me with their emphasis on melody. As opposed to pure “blowing sessions”, the recordings in this review start with well-thought out melodic ideas and build from there.

Let me begin with the splendid new release by alto saxophonist and composer Patrick Cornelius. Hot on the heels of 2010’s trio date “Fierce”, “Maybe Steps” (Posi-Tone Records) expands the basic instrumentation of sax-bass-drums to include piano (the guitar work of Miles Okazaki is heard on several cuts) for a program of 9 originals and 2 standards (K Weill’s “My Ship” and G Shearing’s “Conception“.)  Check out the rhythm section which consists of drummer Kendrick Scott, pianist Gerald Clayton (on all tracks but one, a handsome duo take of the Weill tune features pianist Assen Doykin) and bassistPeter Slavov. Much of the music is the direct result of the birth of Cornelius’s daughter “Isabella” and his fatherly fascination in her.  The music has a searching quality, a sense of adventure and wonder that is often the purview of very young children. No bumps and bruises along the way, just a sweet collections of tunes.  The title track moves easily atop the fine walking bass line and sparse yet effective cymbal work.  Clayton’s generous chords push Cornelius into a strong, singing, solo. That is followed by the Satie-esque “Bella’s Dreaming“, with the leader playing these sweet, bluesy, smears that pushes the piece into George Gershwin.  It’s a wee bit short at just over 2 and 1/2 minutes but none of the tracks are really long.  Scott dances “Shiver Song” in, laying down an irresistible beat that gives all involved just the right push (and a great drum-alto exchange near the close of the piece.)

Nary a sour note on the disc, “Maybe Steps” is delightful music from start to finish. Give it a lot of listens. Release date is 9/20/11.  For more information, go to

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Mark F. Turner reviews Patrick Cornelius “Maybe Steps”…

With the talent to convey thought-provoking stories through his music, Patrick Cornelius pens a fresh chapter of personal and emotive composition in Maybe Steps, his third release as a leader. The recording follows the alto saxophonist’s well-received debut, Lucid Dreams (Self Produced, 2006) and the more groove-oriented Fierce(Whirlwind Recordings Ltd., 2010), both filled with robust writing, tight musicianship, and distinction.

The mode here is modern mainstream, but what gives the recording its verve is Cornelius’ intricate use of straightforward melodies, evocative themes, and gripping contributions from his band mates. His attributes are coupled with a piercing tone, sharp technique, and a leader’s acumen—that ability to assemble and extract the best from new heavies such as pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Kendrick Scott.

Cornelius’ imagery is vivid. It comes to life in “Christmas Gift,” with Clayton’s effervescent, roiling piano chords and Scott’s turbulent sticks, or the enchanting lyricism of “Bella’s Dreaming,” inspired by the saxophonist’s observation of his three month-old daughter’s sleep habits. Yet, in contrast, the band turns up the intensity on “Brother Gabriel” with a Latin-tinged progression that highlights Scott’s amazing onslaught.

The light also shines on the critically acclaimed Clayton, who plays with finesse on the title track (a fresh version first heard on the aforementioned Fierce ), providing just the right touch to Cornelius’ melodic lines; adds splashes of color to the free styling “A Day Like Any Other”; and swings fiercely on Cornelius’s unique take of pianist George Shearing’s “Conception,” which simply smokes, and features the incisive playing of another bright newcomer, guitarist Miles Okazaki.

The set closes with “Le Rendez-vous Final,” a beautiful rubato-flavored piece that exudes a classic romanticism. It is another fine showcase of the multifaceted Cornelius, an emerging altoist who warrants a closer look.