Charles McPherson ‘The Journey’ (Capri) 3/5

charles-mcphersonIt is incredible to think that it was over fifty years ago that Charles McPherson was performing with Charles Mingus. Throughout the last few decades McPherson has been wielding his horn at concerts and recordings with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Jay McShann, Tom Harrell, Pat Martino, Wynton Marsallis and of course, enjoyed a long association with the aforementioned Mingus. Fast forward a generation or two and here we are, in the year of 2015, listening once again to the bebop alto of Mr McPherson. “The Journey” came about following a fortuitous meeting at the Colarado jazz club “Drizzle” in 2014. It was there that McPherson met saxophonist Keith Oxman. This musical encounter with Oxman led to the sessions we have here and with pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Tod Reid, the quintet is complete. One thing is for sure, McPherson has not lost his touch. Sharp, lyrical solos from both saxophonists are a feature of the album, especially on the swinging “Bud Like” and the opening track, a Chip Stephens composition; “Decathexis from Youth (For Cole)”. McPherson is keen to point out how the presence of another saxophonist adds tone and colour and of Oxman he says; “he is extremely creative and has a spirituality in his playing with a depth of feeling that is rare”. A more subtle side to the quintet can be heard on some of the slower numbers, including the ballads “I should care” – a standard favoured by Charlie Parker, and “Manhattan Nocturne”, expertly performed here with a warm maturity and a free-flowing elegance. It’s great to hear McPherson – now in his mid 70’s – still performing and giving it his all. “The Journey” may lack some of the fire and intensity of yester-year; it doesn’t have those heart stopping moments associated with some of the great bebop performances of our time, but none the less it still makes for a very enjoyable listen.

Mike Gates