Eric Alexander/Vincent Herring – review

Ronnie Scott's, London

American saxophonists Eric Alexander and Vincent Herring bill their bustling, soulfully accessible hard-bop partnership as being "in the spirit of Coltrane and Cannonball" (that's the late gospel-influenced alto saxist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley), but the message is in the word "spirit". The pair don't slavishly follow a legacy-band agenda, but mix classic material from this 1960s style with originals and more recent works. They're considerably assisted on their short UK trip by 76-year-old Memphis legend Harold Mabern, a man who approaches his work like a force of nature rather than a pianist.

Fast-swinging, close-harmonised two-sax themes peppered with stuttering stop-time contrasts are staple materials for this style, so pianist Sam Jones' bristling Del Sasser made the perfect opener. Herring blazed through a swooping alto break – as if he were already fully warmed up – once the theme was perfunctorily bustled out of the way, and Alexander followed it on tenor in his more deliberate, patiently accumulative manner. Swiss drummer Joris Dudli's You Got Soul was a classic Ray Charlesian soul-blues sermon that Eric Alexander brought to the boil in a superb solo of anguished whoops, fast passages and Coltranesque tonal nuances, and Mabern capped with a tour de force of wild trills, dark chords and rips down the keyboard's length.

The Michel Legrand/Barbra Streisand song The Way He Makes Me Feel unveiled Alexander's eloquent ballad style (Mabern genuflected to Legrand by building his own solo out of Windmills of Your Mind), and Herring vivaciously ducked and swerved his way through an uptempo follow-up in the manner of Coltrane's chord-juggling Giant Steps. The rhythm section could occasionally have used a little more heat and zip to match the fire from the frontline and the irrepressible Mabern, but this was a gig devoted to in-the-now music-making, not trips down memory lane.

• What have you been to see lately? Tell us about it on Twitter using #GdnGig

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Eric Alexander/Dave O'Higgins, Ronnie Scott's, London

Ronnie Scott's, London

John Fordham

27, Mar, 2008 @12:54 AM

Alexander Hawkins – review
Alexander Hawkins sounds like all the future jazz you might imagine without ever being able to conceive of the details, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

24, Apr, 2012 @5:07 PM

Article image
Monty Alexander review – effortless standards and originals from a virtuoso
Kicking off a week-long residency, the pianist skilfully moved from mid-tempo blues to jazz standards full of tumbling improvisations, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

18, Jun, 2014 @3:12 PM

Albert Herring – review

Eric Crozier's libretto is laugh-out-loud funny. And in the intimate setting, the fictional Suffolk village of Luxford emerges as one of Britten's great operatic communities, says Alfred Hickling

Alfred Hickling

17, May, 2013 @2:33 PM

Article image
Albert Herring – review

The BBCSO's choice of Britten's Suffolk-village comedy as its centenary swansong was safe, but enthusiastically received, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

26, Nov, 2013 @4:32 PM

Article image
Albert Herring – review

This is not laugh-a-minute comedy, but there's a lot to smile at, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

07, Oct, 2012 @3:33 PM

CD: Dave O'Higgins/Eric Alexander: Sketchbook

Both O'Higgins and Alexander vary the momentum with some haunting slow playing, too, says John Fordham

John Fordham

16, Apr, 2009 @3:26 PM

Article image
St Vincent – review
St Vincent's voice is pure and luscious, and you wish she would cut the noise occasionally so it could be heard properly, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

11, Nov, 2011 @6:22 PM

Article image
St Vincent – review

A killer new album and this terrific show full of blood, funk and moonwalking confirm the sense that St Vincent is moving from leftfield oddity to out-and-out star, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

23, Feb, 2014 @6:15 PM

Article image
James Vincent McMorrow – review
The Irish songsmith fought off a cold to deliver a haunting concert with a five-piece band playing together for the first time, writes Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

02, Jun, 2011 @4:07 PM