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The Old Songs
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Like his younger contemporary James Carter (and Joe Lovano, for that matter), tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace seems able to reference a panoply of jazz legends in his playing. He's got the octave leaps that Eric Dolphy made his own, and a swing-era sense of full-bodied tone and breathy playing, to boot. His renditions of standards on Old Songs, then, sound alternately like Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, and some genetic hybrid of about six other saxophonists. He leaps all over "I Hear a Rhapsody," with a lean trio of himself, bassist Bill Huntington, and drummer Alvin Queen. When pianist Lou Levy drops in, as on "My One and Only Love," "Skylark," and "What's New," things are far more intimate and gorgeous, showing Wallace's command of the ballad, sultry moods, and his horn's full range. This is a fantastic, underrecognized album.
- Andrew Bartlett (Amazon.com)