Saxophone Summit – Gathering of Spirits (Telarc)
This CD would be a great blindfold test to see if you know your saxophonists. There are three major players with completely different tones and styles playing spectacularly together in a basic blowing session. Joe Lovano, of course, has his gorgeous tone, Dave Liebman is hard-edged and more Coltrane-esque, and Michael Brecker is, well, he is Michael Brecker, simply the most influential and innovative player since Coltrane himself. The rhythm section is not an afterthought, but the names are a bit of a surprise: Phil Markowitz, a super player and composer, Cecil McBee, who is not heard nearly enough these days, and the venerable Billy Hart, who everyone wants on their record, but usually cannot get, because he is so busy!
Stylistically the music is a tribute to Coltrane with amazingly beautiful melodies offset by abstract group improvisation. Only Liebman is a true disciple, but the intent is obvious. The modal composition “India” and spiritual “Peace on Earth” which is as tonal as it gets. Brecker’s “Gathering of Spirits” has an African-inspired 6/4 vamp and some very free improvisation. Five-star candidate for Album of the Year – you heard it here first.