Vincent Herring's M.O. is well known-he means business. Not that you can tell from the pure joy that emanates from his horn, but like Bird, Cannonball, and Stitt, there is purpose, meaning, and, yes, a little gravity in every note he plays. Herring describes his time spent studying with bebop master Phil Woods as a pivotal moment in his development. It instilled in him a sense of responsibility to assume the mantle of a vital artistic tradition, which, for the past quarter century, is exactly what he's done. With his no-holds-barred solos and unerring aesthetic compass, he's made more than a few great records during that time, but his latest release on Smoke Sessions, The Uptown Shuffle might just be the best one yet.
Like so many classic jazz records, The Uptown Shuffle arrives with a rousing opener, Herring's aptly titled "Elation." He explains that he wrote this theme over 20 years ago to express a feeling of just pure joy. It was never exactly how he wanted it though, until just recently. It might also be the perfect introduction to his quartet. Soulful pianist Cyrus Chestnut, Canadian bass newcomer Brandi Disterheft and the reliably swinging drummer Joe Farnsworth have real chemistry from start to finish. Even when this band slows things down, as they do on timeless favorites like "Love Walked In" and "Tenderly," their intensity and passion never waver. Herring frequently talks about choosing personnel and material based "on a feeling" and that he used that approach to put together this date. He said he knew going in that he had the band he wanted and that when they ran down tunes in rehearsal, the ones included here were the ones that "just clicked."
The Uptown Shuffle was recorded live "uptown" at Smoke Jazz Club in front of a packed house of admirers. There is certainly energy and elation present in these performances and they do capture the spirit and excitement of a night out in New York.