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Listening Post: Charles McPherson’s ‘The Journey’

Jazz

Charles McPherson, “The Journey” (Capri). Haven’t the foggiest idea, frankly, what the title of the first blues on this disc means – “The Decathexis From Youth (For Cole).” It’s by this quintet’s pianist Chip Stephens and it’s a major swinger on which Charles McPherson takes about as much command as you’d expect from one of the last remaining stalwarts of the late period of Charles Mingus. McPherson is a superb alto saxophonist of the most basic, downhome bebop sort. His Denver-based companions here is good – pianist Stephens especially but tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman too. Not all the tunes are on the level of Stephens’ opener – or, to put it mildy, the classic Rodgers and Hart “Spring Is Here” which McPherson tears through at an indendiary up tempo. By the time, you hear McPherson and Stephenson perform Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” and one of Monk’s favorite standard “I Should Care” you won’t be all that concerned with how good or not McPherson’s own tunes are (“Manhattan Nocturne” a good tune played raggedly in the ensembles, “The Journey,” “Tami’s Tune,” “Bud Like”). The good news is that all those years with one of the greatest of all modern jazz composers – Charles Mingus – helped make Charles McPherson one of the better composers among veteran players around. It’s the composing and playing by McPherson and his pianist that are the major points of this disc and, the great news about Charles McPherson is that his “prime” seems, rather hearteningly, far from over.  (Jeff Simon)

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