Preaching To The Choir
Vincent Herring is a hell of a player – a saxophonist that brings to mind the best of Charlie Parker’s sprightly runs and his way with a melody, just updated for the modern context. And his latest album is not just a celebration of his extraordinary talents (and his amazing band – featuring the great Cyrus Chetnut on piano, Jonathan Blake on the drums and Yasushi Nakamura on bass) but also the fact that Herring is still here and playing. You see, last year – and presumably on a flight back from celebrating Parker’s influence as part of a centenary concert – Herring contract Covid. And a side-effect from the virus was the development of rheumatoid arthritis. He worried he might not play again. But you’ll go no such worry when you hear this – it’s a lively session, with huge tunes and dynamic playing.
Opener, a Herring original called Dudli’s Dilemma, is a ripper. Then it’s into the standard Old Devil Moon, which is played with full enthusiasm and sheer delight by all involved and stands as one of the best versions of it I’ve ever heard. Ojo de Rojo is by pianist Cedar Walton, Herring was a member of his band for many years. It’s an absolute gem of a piece – with all of the band getting to shine.
Then the first real curveball – but it’s brilliant – is Lionel Richie’s Hello served as instrumental ballad. Blake is wondrous with the brushes and Herring dominates with a gorgeous solo as Nakamura and Chestnut sit lovingly in the background of the piece, tasteful, stately.
The choice of tunes here is spot on – Chestnut’s Minor Swing, Wes Montgomery’s Fried Pies, Joe Henderson’s Granted and the Duke Ellington staple In A Sentimental Mood form the backbone of the album.
And the closer is a valedictorian run through Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, shades of Roland Kirk dazzling a few decades earlier on My Cherie Amour though never as chaotic of course. Here we feel Herring truly celebrating his recovery and loving leading a brilliant band.
This is such a joy of an album from start to finish – and I was loving it long before I heard about its coronavirus-informed creation.