Eric Alexander makes his first foray on HighNote Records into the hallowed halls of the 'ballad record', and joins the ranks of such tenor balladeers as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Houston Person, Hank Mobley and countless others. But this is not your mother's ballad record. Eric has selected an interesting program of music that will interest and please even the most seasoned collectors. From "Dinner for One Please, James" to Trane's "Central Park West," Eric displays a thoughtful sensitivity that is all the more effective for being so surprising.
Release Date February 26, 2013
Styles Straight-Ahead Jazz Jazz Instrument Saxophone Jazz
Recording Date October 22, 2012
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander delivers his first album of all ballads with 2013's Touching. Once again working with his longtime cohorts -- pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth -- Alexander has crafted a bluesy, soulful, and romantic album that, while soft in conception, is in no way smooth. Alexander is a long avowed straight-ahead jazz stylist and Touching is no exception. Here, he plays in his own no-nonsense way, often with limited embellishment on the melody lines and always with a muscular sense of rhythm and swing when soloing. What is also pleasing is that Mabern and Alexander have chosen a handful of lesser-performed songs. Here, we get songs like pianist Bobby Lyle's gorgeous "Touching," which was inspired by Stanley Turrentine's version of his 1975 album Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, as well as superb takes of Michael Jackson's "Gone Too Soon," John Coltrane's "Central Park West," and "The Way She Makes Me Feel," from the Yentl soundtrack. Ultimately, Touching is a steamy album, with just enough classy restraint to make it a perfect accompaniment for any stylish afterglow.
Audio CD (February 26, 2013)
Number of Discs: 1
Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
By Owen Cordle
Eric Alexander, on the scene since the early 1990s, is from the masculine school of tenor saxophone rhapsody. Throughout Touching, an album of ballads, he projects melodic conviction, deep feeling and mature expression. There is a blues and gospel influence that descends from Stanley Turrentine and an occasional out-there burst of spirituality reminiscent of John Coltrane in Alexander’s playing; in other words, this is not ballad-lite. Pianist Harold Mabern (Alexander’s teacher at William Paterson University), bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth, longtime Alexander associates, accompany the saxophonist.
The title tune, by pianist Bobby Lyle, is a bluesy line that Alexander eases into lazily, with Mabern’s funky piano urging him on to an aggressive finish. “Gone Too Soon,” popularized by Michael Jackson, and the Chi-Lites’ “Oh, Girl” are the kind of post-American Popular Song-era tunes that jazz musicians ought to connect with more often. On Coltrane’s “Central Park West,” Alexander’s warm tone, flurried runs and Stan Getz-like trills show a viable alternative to and variation on the composer’s way of playing—but we hear some busy McCoy Tyner-like runs from the ever-resourceful Mabern.
Alexander also evokes Trane here and there on Jimmy Dorsey’s “I’m Glad There Is You” and Cahn and Van Heusen’s “The September of My Years,” and Mabern digs into a clipped, stride-piano feel on the former. This stride feel gooses other performances as well, and Mabern is a joyfully rhythmic accompanist and strong soloist overall. Although Webber and Farnsworth don’t get a chance to kick up much of a ruckus on the album, they’re felt throughout.
Originally published in April 2013
02. Gone Too Soon
03. The Way She Makes Me Feel
04. Dinner For One Please James
05. Central Park West
06. I’m Glad There Is You
07. The September Of My Years
08. Oh Girl