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Down With It by James Spaulding and the Pierre Christophe Trio

Here is a recording from an overlooked jazz master. Alto saxophonist and flutist James Spaulding has had a long and distinguished career that has seen him work with artists as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Sun Ra, David Murray, Abbey Lincoln, Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, and Wayne Shorter, appearing on over 100 recordings extending back to the 1950s, a good number under his own name. He is perhaps best known for his 10 year tenure with Hubbard's quintet that produced some classic Blue Note albums. His most recent recording captures the spirit of a live performance and reveals that he has lost none of the fire that has always informed his best work.

Spaulding was invited to Paris in July of last year to perform at the Sunside club with the Pierre Christophe trio, and the second night was taped to produce enough tracks for this CD and a possible follow-up. It is not a lot of time to prepare for a recording, but sometimes a group just clicks and produces the goods right away, and that was the story here. With strong support from Christophe and Co., Spaulding works through a program of quality jazz standards by Monk--"I Mean You,"--Mobley--"Soul Station,"--Duke--"In A Sentimental Mood,"--Bud Powell--"Down With It,"--and Joe Henderson--"Recordame." There is also Randy Weston's waltz, "Little Niles," and two Spaulding originals, "Oracle 2," and "Hurry Home," the latter an an extended blues in 5/4.

It is repertoire that is well known without being hackneyed, and it provides common ground for the group to settle into a groove that showcases their talents. Spaulding in particular stretches out to display the various facets of his style, a personal take on the alto saxophone based on Charlie Parker but reflecting more recent developments, with his trademark, slightly acerbic, sound. And, as a change of pace, on Duke's ballad and the Latin-flavored "Recordame," there is his equally personal, muscular approach to the flute that puts him among the pioneers on that instrument. Christophe contributes some two-fisted solos and Dever and Benhammou are rock solid throughout. This is high quality playing, with all involved clearly relaxed and enjoying themselves. The recording quality is adequate, but, as is so often the case, what is lost in studio perfection is made up for in the spontaneity of a live date.

With the flood of new releases from a new generation of saxophonists it would be a tragedy to loose sight of seasoned masters like James Spaulding. This issue would be a great way to catch up with his latest work, while also offering a glimpse of the lively jazz scene in Paris, France.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Spaulding and the Pierre Christophe Trio
  • CD Title: Down With It
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Disques Futura Et Marge
  • Tracks: 1. I Mean You, 2. Soul Station, 3. Down With It, 4. In a Sentimental Mood, 5. Little Niles, 6. Oracle 2, 7. Recordame, 8. Hurry Home
  • Musicians: James Spaulding (alto sax, flute [4&7]), Pierre Christophe (piano), Raphael Dever (bass), Mourad Benhammou (drums).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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