Cards on the table—I liked this album at first hearing, and I still like it after some study, but with a few reservations.
The set-list is straight ahead mainstream jazz, songbook standards, melodic, bluesy, swinging (with a couple of originals in that style) referencing the florid attacks of Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Red Garland, and the cool complexity of Ahmad Jamal. I like that.
The basic personnel are a trio with just-out -of-music-school Alterman leading Ahmad Jamal veterans Herlin Riley on drums and James Cammack on bass, with tenor-sax soul bluesman Houston Person breathing authority into four numbers including the Alterman original “Biscuits.”
The album opens respectfully with “Georgia On My Mind,” Person taking the lead and Alterman comping strongly till he takes a solo and shows chops that repeat on most tunes: Alterman likes melody, rippling arpeggios, ostinatos, a bluesy sound that goes back to the barrelhouse thirties, and in his improvisations a taste for that far-right handed glassy-crystal effect. Nice chops.
Alterman take the lead on the title track and surprises with an approach that brings to mind (can you believe it?) the voicing of George Shearing and Mel Tormé—meaning, a certain pristine, cool, sparkle, with wit and enjoyment.
“An Affair to Remember” brings out Alterman’s trippingly light touch. The rest of the setlist includes four tunes that I think of as nostalgic ‘last-couple-on-the-floor-slow-dancing numbers’: ” I Guess I’ll Have to Dream the Rest,” “Why Try to Change Me Now,” “They Say It’s Spring,” and “I’m Yours.” Everyone of these is a good thing, but all may be too much of a good thing. That’s where I have my reservations.
Alterman rocks and rolls it out with a bounce on “Kelly’s Blues,” while coming off a bit green beside Person’s sexy sax. His original “Biscuits” helps move the album uptempo and thumping in his and Cammack’s baselines. His second chorus on “Why Do I Love You” is full of very swinging improv riffs that have a unique energy that I like.
This is Alterman’s second album, and it’s a nice one to have around when you just want to enjoy good music.
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