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Blue Spirit (1996)

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Tim Hagans

This combination works. Although one might expect a group with the name of "The Blue Note All Stars" to be revisiting songs associated with Art Blakey, Horace Silver and perhaps Wayne Shorter, the impressive sextet sticks to new material with each member contributing one or two originals. The players (trumpeter Tim Hagans, altoist Greg Osby, tenor-saxophonist Javon Jackson, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Bill Stewart) range in their individual careers from Jackson's Joe Henderson-influenced hard bop to Osby's attempts to fuse hip-hop with jazz, but together they successfully form a unified group sound. The music is mostly pretty complex and a logical extension of the late 60's explorations that often took place on Blue Note sessions. For example, Bill Stewart's "Kae" has 11-bar choruses played in 7/4 and the swinging "Think Before You Think" is actually comprised of nine-bar choruses. All of the musicians play quite well and, although a melancholy mood often dominates, there are some sparkling and very fresh solos, particularly from Osby and Hagans. The music really needs several auditions for one to take in everything that occurs. Recommended.
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