Early this year, renowned jazz drummer Al Foster celebrated a big milestone when he celebrated his 79th birthday. That was back in January. Now as the year slowly inches toward its end, Foster has another reason to celebrate. That reason is his brand-new album, Reflections. His second for Smoke Sessions Records and his seventh as a bandleader, the 11-song record is an enjoyable collection of originals and covers. The covers pay tribute to the likes of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Joe Henderson (all of whom he has worked with during his expansive career) while the originals offer their own share of engagement and entertainment. Among the most notable of the covers is that of Rollins’ ‘Pent-up House,’ which comes early in the album’s hour-plus run. To be precise, the album clocks in at one hour, seven minutes. Among the most notable of the album’s originals is ‘Six,’ which comes just at the album’s midpoint. It will be examined a little later. Another notable addition to the album is its finale, ‘Monk’s Bossa,’ which obviously pays tribute to another legendary jazz artist, Thelonius Monk. All three songs noted here are key in their own way to the album’s presentation. When they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries, the whole becomes a thoroughly enjoyable offering that every jazz fan will find enjoyable.
Reflections, the latest album from famed drummer Al Foster, is an enjoyable presentation that any jazz aficionado will find enjoyable. That is proven throughout its blend of originals and covers. Among the most notable of the record’s covers is that of Sonny Rollins’ ‘Pent-Up House.’ Rollins’ original was featured as part of his 1956 album, Sonny Rollins Plus 4. Foster and his fellow musicians – Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Chris Potter (saxophone), Kevin Hays (piano), and Vicente Archer (bass) – stay true to the source material here. Right from the song’s outset, Payton leads the way with his light but still energetic performance. Given, Rollins’ original tops the eight-minute mark while Foster and company’s take on the song is much shorter at five minutes, five seconds, but it still pays the fullest possible tribute to the work of Rollins and his then band mates. Potter’s work on saxophone takes the place of the solos from the original and does so quite well at that. There are also some solos in the original performed by Foster’s fellow famed drummer Max Roach that are omitted in the updated rendition, but that is beside the point. This group’s take will still leave listeners fulfilled by its finale. It is just as enjoyable in its own right as the original song.
Among the most notable of the album’s originals is ‘Six,’ which serves as part of the record’s midpoint. Composed by Payton, the eight-minute-plus composition starts out in a very subtle, contemplative fashion before giving way to a more vintage funk style approach. That throwback style is evident through the use of the horns and keyboards. Foster’s equally funky time keeping pairs with those instruments to really give the song the sense of a work from the likes of Stevie Wonder. Considering the amount of information in the album’s expansive liner notes, it is difficult to know for certain if there is any discussion on the song, though many of the other songs are discussed. That aside, the song is still such an enjoyable work. The pairing of Payton and Potter alongside Hays (whose work on the keyboards really adds even more to that feeling) really makes the composition all the richer. It stands out so starkly from any of the album’s other works, original and otherwise and it just one more of the notable additions to the album. ‘Monk’s Bossa,’ which serves as the album’s finale, is one more interesting original featured as part of the album’s body.
‘Monk’s Bossa’ is an interesting work what with its sort of lounge style presentation. Hays leads the way with his work on the keys here while Foster’s light touches on the toms expertly compliments that work. That is because his playing is so gentle. He adds just enough, making sure to let Hays have his moment here. Potter and Payton each get their own moments to shine, too, making the most of their performances, too. The whole of the performances makes this song just as enjoyable as any other in the record. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Foster’s latest album engaging and entertaining and another welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Al Foster’s newly released album, Reflections, is an aptly titled record that so many jazz fans will find enjoyable. That is proven throughout its hour-plus body through its originals and covers alike. The songs examined here do well in their own right to make that clear. When they are considered with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Reflections another welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Reflections is available now through Smoke Sessions Records. More information on this and other titles from Smoke Sessions Records is available at:
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