Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Young Masters Coming of Age

The Young Masters
Coming of Age
Live The Spirit Residency

Live The Spirit Residency is a grass roots education and performance program associated with Ernest Dawkins, one of today's most accomplished saxophonists, educator and composer, The Young Masters are one of the student ensembles he has mentored and includes Dawkins on alto saxophone and director; Isaiah Collier on tenor saxophone; Jeremiah Collier on drums, Alexis Lombre on piano and James Wenzel on bass. All four of the young masters have contributed to the compositions presented here. Several of these were in response to victims of gun violence in Chicago. The compositions were also performed in public at parks in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.

This recording opens with Lombre's "Blues in Tyme," that evokes the classic Coltrane Quartet in Lombre's marvelous piano that hints at McCoy Tyner whose influence shapes her playing with her own voice. Isaiah Collier's robust tenor similarly is influenced by John Coltrane, but likewiase he has his own voice and has his own ideas to share for listeners. Dawkins also solos and the rhythm duo is excellent. While the title might suggest it was a tribute to Tyner, it was first performed in Chicago's Dawes Park in memory of Tyshawn Lee, a 9 year old victim of Chicago's gun violence. This terrific performance  shows how these young players have learned from their ancestors and are becoming  young masters. Lombre's other composition "I'm Tired" is a moody blues with the light backing from Wenzel and Jeremiah Collier (on brushes).

Isaiah Collier composed the ruminative "Before You Go" in memory of a classmate that had been murdered in 2014, and the spotlight here shines on both him and pianist Lombre. He also contributed a bouncy "Heath's Groove," that one surmises is dedicated to the great tenor saxophonist, composer and educator, Jimmy Heath. The quartet marvelously performs Wenzel's lovely ballad, "Conflicts Cadence." Dawkins joins in for the lively quintet performance of Wenzel's "Finish Line," with Isaiah Collier taking an energetic solo, followed by Dawkins' blues-inflected alto and the composer.

"June 11" is a duet performance between the Collier Brothers and Isaiah's fiery tenor suggesting the late Johnny Griffin and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis with brother Jeremiah pushing this along. Then there is "Crash," another performance that sounds rooted in the hard bop to free jazz of the sixties and seventies (to these ears suggestive of Pharaoh Sanders) in the robust, high energy tenor sax.

It is impressive to note the youthfulness of Lombre and Isaiah Collier who graduated high school not that long prior to this recording, and I believe Jeremiah Collier is in 10th Grade, while bassist Wenzel likely has finished his Bachelor's at University of Illinois at Chicago. I mention this because there is nothing of the music suggests their youth. They play with a technical facility as well as a musical maturity that transcends their youth. Indeed they have Come of Age. They join the many musicians  Dawkins has mentored over the years including trumpeters Marquis Hill, Maurice Brown and Corey Wilkes; flutist Nicole Mitchell; saxophonists David Boykin, Aaron Getsug, and Greg Ward; trombonist Norman Palm; and drummer Isaiah Spencer.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a clip of Alexis Lombre and Isaiah Collier performing together. 

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