Saturday, February 25, 2012

Avery Sharpe Honors His Mentors

Bassist Avery Sharpe is perhaps best known for his lengthy tenure with the great McCoy Tyner who he joined in 1980. A varied career, he has worked with such significant artists as Art Blakey, Archie Shepp, Dizzy Gillespie and Pat Metheny in addition to his long tenure with Tyner. He has also recorded a number of highly praised albums that showcase his original compositions. On his JKNM Records label, he has issued Legends and Mentors: The Music of McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef, on which he plays homage to them, first performing an original dedictated to each as well as two compositions by each. For this disc he has brought together a band that includes John Blake on violin; Joe Ford on saxophones as well as flute; Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano; and Winard Harper on drums. Blake and Ford both are also alumni of Tyner’s band.

The first trio of tunes is Sharpe’s Big Mac, his salute to Tyner followed by Tyner’s Ballad For Aisha and Fly With the Wind Big Mac brings together distinctive voicings of Blake’s violin and Ford’s alto along with strong solos. Tyner’s Ballad For Aisha has a middle-eastern flavor which Blake’s violin brings to the fore with Gumbs maintaining the flow after which Ford enters on soprano sax followed by Sharpe taking center stage. Sharpe launches Fly With a Wind, which one assumes Sharpe, Ford and Blake played numerous times with Tyner. The exhilarating composition never grows stale.

The Chief is the tribute to Archie Shepp, and its stately melody also features one of Ford’s strongest solos here, with Sharpe’s solo serving as a bridge to Blake. Shepp’s Steam is a lovely waltz while Ujaama hits a hot tempo with Ford back on alto and Blake solo is followed by Gumbs and Ford, with Sharpe solid anchoring the performance.

Gentle Giant, a performance that features changing tempos opens with some marvelous flute from Ford, while Sharpe takes an unaccompanied solo followed by Harper’s thoughtful drum solo. Lateef’s slightly exotic Morning, with its delicate, dance-like rhythms is a strong feature for Ford on tenor while the uptempo Because They Love Me is an exhilarating romp with Ford again on tenor and Blake and Gumbs both playing impressive here. Lateef’s music perhaps has not remained as much in the forefront of the jazz world as that of Tyner and Shepp, and hopefully tthesef performances will rectify that.

Legends & Mentors is a loving tribute by Sharpe and his colleagues of three of the past century’s major jazz artists who are done proud by the performances here.

This review originally appeared is the April 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 303). I received my review copy a publicist for this recording. Avery Sharpe’s website is and he has a new recording out, Running Man.

Here is Avery Sharpe with his trio doing Mr. P.C.

No comments: