Born but four years apart in the mid-1960s, jazz saxophonists Eric Alexander (tenor) and Vincent Herring (alto) play with plenty of youthful vigor and urgency tempered by wisdom and experience. Whereas some youthful players tend to go over the top to impress (or to tread water until an idea comes to them), young veterans Alexander and Herring bring a bracing succinctness to their approaches, all the while burning through the night.
Both share blues-charged roots — Alexander played in soul-jazz giant Charles Earland's band and Herring in Nat Adderley's band (Nat being the brother of Herring's idol, Cannonball Adderley). Herring has the same mercurial, tart, searing gospel-fervor tone as Cannonball, while Alexander is rooted in the shiny, steely, hearty tones of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. They joined forces for a stand at the New York City jazz club Smoke, resulting in the blazing live set Friendly Fire. The gregarious, straight-ahead album finds both gents at the top of their games, bringing commitment and a sense of camaraderie to the proceedings. The kickoff: Hank Mobley's "Pat 'n' Chat," a hard-swinging hunk o' burning hard bop, loaded with enthusiastic but considered solos. Taken at a medium tempo, the (usually melancholy) standard "Here's That Rainy Day" gives the guys the opportunity to wax tender (somewhat), Alexander gorgeously exploring his horn's lower tones, Herring inserting some pensive shading to his sizzling solo.
Their band features pianist Mike Ledonne, driving and lyrical, and drummer Carl Allen, forceful and volatile. Friendly Fire so lives up to its title. (HighNote)
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