Eric Alexander, Timing Is Everything Review


Eric Alexander, Timing Is Everything Review

by Jeff Becker

Eric-Alexander-Jazz-Sensibilities-CDIn the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary jazz, Eric Alexander’s latest release, Timing Is Everything, emerges as a beacon of today’s jazz steaming from the hard-bop school. Released on May 24, 2024, under the Cellar Live label, this album features a stellar ensemble: Rick Germanson on piano, Alexander Claffy on bass, Jason Tiemann on drums, with special appearances by Stan Wetering, Jed Paradies, Rale Micic, and Alma Micic. This project is a solid addition to Alexander’s extensive discography, making an enjoyable statement on the essence of timing in life and music.

The title Timing Is Everything encapsulates the core philosophy driving this album. Alexander’s belief that the right timing in music can transform ordinary notes into extraordinary moments is vividly brought to life across the album’s nine tracks. This concept is skillfully woven into the fabric of each composition, reflecting a balance between spontaneous improvisation and structured harmony.

Alexander’s choice of collaborators speaks volumes about his artistic direction. Rick Germanson’s piano work is fluid and complex, offering a perfect counterpoint to Alexander’s robust tenor saxophone. Alexander Claffy’s bass lines provide a solid, yet flexible foundation, while Jason Tiemann’s drumming injects energy and subtlety into the mix. The contributions of guest musicians like Stan Wetering, Jed Paradies, Rale Micic, and Alma Micic add diverse textures and flavors, enhancing the overall listening experience.

“After the Rain” is a stirring tribute to John Coltrane. Alexander’s warm, lyrical saxophone leads the way, supported by the deep listening and interplay of Germanson, Claffy, and Tiemann. Germanson and Alexander perform solos of remarkable class, making this track a powerful introduction foreshadowing the hard-swinging moments yet to come.

“But Beautiful” opens with Germanson’s solo piano intro, transitioning seamlessly into Alexander’s flowing performance of the melody. His phrasing and embellishment of the theme are exceptional. The narrative development in Alexander’s solo is a testament to his storytelling ability through improvisation, delivering a relaxed, intimate, and introspective experience.

“Serenade To A Cuckoo” features Jed Paradies on flute and Rale Micic on guitar; this track offers a medium swing feel. Alexander’s solo blends bop sophistication with bluesy, melodic post-bop vibes, creating a happy, toe-tapping, and fun atmosphere. “Big G’s Monk” is an up-tempo swing number featuring guest saxophonist Stan Wetering. The track is dynamic, showcasing the chemistry and interactions between the saxophonists, resulting in a fluid, exciting, uplifting, exhilarating swing.

“Sasquatch” is a Latin contrafact based on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” showcasing the ensemble’s interactive skills, particularly between Tiemann’s drumming and Alexander’s rhythmic ideas. “Misty” features a developing arrangement, transitioning from a relaxed ballad to a double-time swing feel. Alexander’s playing demonstrates his deep understanding of jazz history while seamlessly integrating contemporary sounds.

“Evergreen” features Alma Micic’s elegant voice, adding a layer of lyrical beauty to this pop classic reimagined with a jazz inflection. Her vocal performance, combined with the ensemble’s sensitive accompaniment, creates a nostalgic, mellow, and introspective atmosphere that highlights the emotional depth of the piece.

“Someone” closes the album with a medium swing feel rooted in contemporary hard bop stylings. Alexander’s tenor saxophone takes center stage, delivering a beautifully crafted solo that encapsulates the essence of the album. The ensemble’s cohesive performance provides a fitting conclusion, leaving the listener with a sense of satisfaction and anticipation for future works.

Alexander’s decision to record Timing Is Everything in less than two hours, capturing the first takes without alternate versions or overdubs, underscores his unwavering commitment to authenticity. This bold approach preserves the spontaneity and raw energy of the performances, reflecting Alexander’s belief in the importance of first impressions in life and music. The album’s title, Timing Is Everything, aptly relates not only to the thematic elements of the music but also to the recording process itself.

Session supervisor Don Sickler awarded Alexander and the quartet an unofficial silver medal for completing the recording in under two hours, a testament to their exceptional preparedness and synergy. “I wasn’t out to set a world record for recording time,” states Alexander, “but I wanted to make a record that presented all of the musicians on material that they are intimately comfortable with and are capable of being creative on right away.” This philosophy is rooted in Alexander’s firm belief that “warts and all” are often the first impressions or the initial expressions, even if they contain mistakes, that become the most enduring and appreciated moments.

Alexander elaborates, “I didn’t want to do alternate takes or overdubs. I wanted it just as it was, and if anything was too hideous, it wouldn’t have made the record. Quite frankly, every single thing sounded just fine to me, and I’m proud of it.” This approach aligns with the wisdom of jazz great George Coleman, who famously said, “You shoot for the stars right away; you might only hit the moon, but it’s better than crawling around in a swamp.” By embracing the immediacy and honesty of first takes, Alexander ensures that Timing Is Everything captures the true essence and vitality of his and his ensemble’s artistry.

Timing Is Everything reflects precision and passion through the art of jazz. Eric Alexander’s impeccable timing and musicality are evident throughout the album, offering a rich tapestry of sounds and emotions in a contemporary hard-bop styling.

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