Jeff Alkire – One Summer in Winters

Jeff Alkire
One Summer in Winters
by Donald N. Eichelberger

The first song, “At This Moment”, begins with a brief, floating intro by the entire ensemble, then the flute, trumpet and alto sax blend together in a tight, tantalizing delivery of the melody: a crisp, charming theme. The drummer uses brushes to paint accents and splashes of tasty rhythm/pulse – flashes, splashes, and flourishes that emphasize and highlight the best parts of each soloist’s offering. Each of the front-line players takes a solo, each making an engaging statement. The acoustic bass weaves supple and supportive lines, binding the group together into a smooth, solid unit. When the bassist takes his solo, the sax, flute, and trumpet contribute harmonic texture that nicely compliments the bassist as he surfs the chord changes.

“Pancakes” jumps out at you, sizzling. It’s an out-of-the ordinary tune, but attractively so. Playfully inventive, and just when you think that you know where the arrangement’s going, they take you off you on a breath-taking ride through some exciting musical hairpin turns. And on this cut, the drummer and the pianist are featured in a musical pas de deu where each generously supports the other, yet each remains distinct and independent.

The title piece, “One Summer in Winters”, is a thoughtful, reflective tonal event. An intriguing melody and an artful arrangement. Flute creating notes that are like delicate soap bubbles borne on a gentle breeze, floating up and away into the air. Great acoustic bass solo.

“Why”: This performance is a pleasant reminder of why it’s such a joy to listen to fine musicians play fine music. And finally a piano solo: it was worth having waited three songs to hear the pianist do his thing, especially since he provides such excellent support for the other players on this cut, as well as on the other cuts. A very creatively structured arrangement.

“Weaver of Dreams” is a standard song played in a standard way – kinda “loungy”, as compared to most of the other songs on the CD, but in the hands of these players, you might feel the urge to actually get up and do a two-step with your honey.

On “Panama” a new set of musicians grab you by the collar and pull you along with them on a rousing rhythmic excursion that dances and bounces like water on a hot skillet. And then, in the end, the song evaporates like the water on a hot skillet.

This rendition of “All the Things You Are” isn’t like any I’ve ever heard before. There’s only Alkire on sax, accompanied by acoustic bass and drums (with brushes again). I liked it more than I thought I would.

“Barbara” is well and sweetly played, but the real gem is the extended, interesting, and expertly played acoustic bass solo.

The final cut, “November”, is a like tender parting kiss: a fitting and satisfying conclusion.

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