Donald Harrison: Christopher Jr.
Donald Harrison (alto sax)
Nouveau Swing (Impulse! 209)
Anthony Wonsey (piano), Carl Allen (drums).
Composed by Donald Harrison.
Recorded: New York, August 11-13, 1996
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
On a CD that mixes jazz with hip-hop, reggae, New Orleans funk and second line, calypso, blues, the Motown sound and Brazilian samba, this track nonetheless stands out for its streamlined focus. "Christopher Jr." is Donald Harrison's pure bebop tribute to Charlie Parker. Harrison's versatility is well known, whether exploring Eric Dolphy's music many years ago with Terence Blanchard or Latin jazz currently with Eddie Palmieri, so it's no surprise that he could compose such a catchy bop tune as "Christopher Jr." and improvise on it with extreme confidence and flair.
The theme borrows from several bop anthems of yore, yet is somehow fresh-sounding and memorable in its own right, as Harrison's vibrant alto plays it soulfully with a piquant tone. McBride's transfixing basslines are upfront in the recorded mix as the altoist's solo takes flight. Harrison alternates slyly loping phrases with intense multi-noted runs, creating a pretty much perfect improvisation in the language of classic bebop. McBride's articulate solo quotes cleverly from "Get Happy," injects some engaging elements of funk, and is masterfully executed – as a whole, probably one of his best recorded solos of the '90s. Pianist Anthony Wonsey responds by appearing to channel Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark – not a bad combination. Add this irresistible track to your bebop lineup.
Reviewer: Scott Albin