The alto saxophonist eases in gently with Weezie’s Waltz, dedicated to his niece and mixing three-four time in with five-four. The tune and the light-stepping style of the quartet is pretty mainstream, but it isn’t long before McCabe’s beautifully structured solo starts to mix in a little “out there” harmony in with the more conventional stuff.
And that’s the chief delight of this disc: both in the writing and the playing McCabe and his cohorts – Uri Caine on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on drums and either Greg Hutchinson or Rudy Royston on drums – tread that tantalising mid-ground between the kind of harmonies we know and love and the ones we’re both excited and a little scared by.
McCabe cites Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean and Eric Dolphy as alto saxophone influences, and one can hear all three in his playing at different times.
Most of the tunes are McCabe originals, but he can do interesting things with standards, too: Good Morning Heartache clocks in at over 12 minutes and has a lot of thoughtful, musing Coltrane about it, with the band circling the head like a stalking pride of lions before it drops gently into a bossa swing. Lovely solos here from Caine and Okegwo.
A rewarding album with joys for old timers and young bucks alike.
You can’t hear this band in Britain any time soon, but you can hear pianist Uri Caine doing his Mahler thing this evening at Birmingham Town Hall. Should be awesome. For more on that go here