Musicians always strive to capture the spirit and energy of a live performance in the recording studio - a formidable challenge without the mirror of the live audience. With Night and Day - his second album for Smoke Sessions Records - the brilliant alto saxophonist Vincent Herring achieves this elusive goal unequivocally. On all 10 tracks of this remarkable album, all of the immediacy, excitement and visceral energy of a packed house on a Saturday night are so palpable, that the listener is always expecting an explosion of applause at the end of every solo and each track. Hard blowing, no-nonsense jazz is at the heart of this entire matter, played in its timeless essence of urgent intensity by an ensemble of superb musicians.
"This recording is special to me. I enjoyed every minute of it and I'm grateful that I was able to make it," says Herring. "I'm still growing as a musician and person and I think it's my best record yet."
Renowned for his soulful and powerfully expressive playing, the explosive altoist is joined on the front line for six pieces by the equally combustible trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. The rhythm section of Mike LeDonne on piano, Brandi Disterheft on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums are ideally suited to the fierce energy and take-no-prisoners context, performing with exuberant fire and impeccable taste throughout. LeDonne's spirited comping and impressive solos, and Disterheft's impeccable time and vibrant sound combine with Farnsworth's inventive drive and sparkling punctuation to create that synergy and unity that is essential to music of this substance. Pelt's virtuosity and rich lyricism, even at breakneck tempos, is the perfect complement to Herring's dynamic creativity and absolute command in executing his endless stream of ideas.
The repertoire is outstanding. There are two Herring originals, "The Adventures of Hyun Joo Lee," a scorcher based on Coltrane's "Countdown;" and a nicely grooved up-tempo blues, "Smoking Paul's Stash" that closes the album. The four quartet pieces include a rip-roaring version of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and a piece played by many alto greats, "The Gypsy," a beautifully heartfelt ballad expressed mostly in double time. Cannonball Adderley's "Wabash" (from the Cannonball & Coltrane album) features Herring in appropriately bluesy form; and Tex Allen's infectious "There Is Something about You (I Don't Know)" has a ballad-ish samba feel, built on LeDonne's shimmering electric piano and with evocatively plaintive alto. Donald Byrd's iconic hard-bop classic "Fly, Little Bird, Fly" is a splendid flight and Cedar Walton's lovely Latin-tinged "Theme for Jobim" is played with deep warmth and expression. Cedar is further remembered with LeDonne's "Walton," a rich, complex and poignant tribute performed with the deep love that is felt for the legendary pianist and leader. His saxophonist for more than 20 years, Herring says: "All of us are Cedar's musical children. I wish we could have played this one for him."
This leads to another vital element of the jazz legacy that is fully at play on Night and Day - the evolution of an extraordinary artist looking at his past to forge his future. Long regarded by musicians and audiences alike as one of the foremost alto saxophonists of the modern era, Herring has developed into a leader through the longstanding tradition of apprenticeship. He's performed with a veritable who's who of modern jazz, including Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Jack DeJohnette and so many more. This album builds upon all of that experience, particularly in regard to his nine years with Nat Adderley (and continuing to uphold the Cannonball tradition in The Cannonball Legacy Band alongside Pelt), and especially through his decades long relationship with Cedar Walton, whose passing has been almost as powerfully affecting as his life influence on so many fine artists.
"Cedar Walton is not with us anymore, but his musical contributions live on. I love Cedar's music and learned from him to carry it forward," explains Herring. "This music is in our hands now."
And without a doubt, with a master like Vincent Herring, those are good hands indeed.
"Night and Day" was recorded live in New York at Sear Sound's Studio A
on a Rupert Neve 8038 custom console at 96KHz/24bit and mixed to ½" analog tape
using a Studer mastering deck. Available in audiophile HD format.
Vincent Herring · Night and Day // Smoke Sessions Records // Release Date: May 12, 2015