Tenor sax veteran Benny Golson, still going strong after an extended career that includes a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, is the subject of a new salute from Concord Jazz. The promotion actually includes a pair of albums; one newly recorded and the other a career retrospective, offered separately as a companion piece.
New Time, New ‘Tet, Golson’s first new album in several years and already climbing the charts, features a modern version of one of his favorite forms, the sextet — or as he calls it, the ‘jazztet’. Joining with Golson to form the group and also help bring back his signature ‘three horn’ sound are trombonist Steve Davis and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, who has the difficult task of emulating long-time Golson collaborator Art Farmer on trumpet and flugelhorn. Filling out the sextet are pianist Mike LaDonne, bassist Buster Williams, and percussionist Carl Allen.
The ten tracks include some of Golson’s own classic pieces, such as “Whisper Not,” here given the added delight of an Al Jarreau vocal, and some newer compositions too. Among the latter, my favorite was probably “Uptown Afterburn,” a tune that would have been completely at home in the bebop era of Golson’s younger days.
Also on board are pieces from other jazz legends, including Sonny Rollins’ classic, “Airegin,” which is nicely handled by all but especially Henderson, and “Epistrophy,” — an outstanding and irresistible rendition that composer Thelonious Monk would have loved. Golson’s sax is especially nice here with his breathy style on full display.
It’s interesting to note that Golson has also included a couple of tracks that feature his take on classical music. My favorite was “Verdi’s Voice,” which turns the music of the masters on its ear, producing a bop sound that still retains the flavor of the past. Good stuff.
The companion album carries the simple but perfectly descriptive title, The Best Of Benny Golson. It includes originals of some of his best recordings, many of them dating back to the 1950s and 1960s but some from later decades. It’s a great collection that opens with a 1957 version of “Whisper Not,” which is the only piece showing up on both albums. In addition to many Golson classics, the album also includes great versions of a couple of standards, with his 1959 recording of “April In Paris” especially nice.
Two outstanding albums from Benny Golson and crew, and the folks at Concord Jazz. Treat yourself to both — you won’t be sorry.