|Tenor giant Rockwell leads the quintet as they cover 13 tunes composed by the great American popular composer Alec Wilder. This one swings!
Here's another album to file under ¡°p¡± for ¡°pleasant surprises.¡± Bob Rockwell, an American saxophonist who traveled to Denmark as a young man and has lived there ever since (which may explain the omission of his name in both the New Grove Dictionary and Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz ), is a persuasive modernist on tenor or soprano who surveys the music of composer Alec Wilder on this splendidly recorded and invariably charming studio session.
Besides the leader, the Rockwell 5 is comprised of trumpeter MEen Lundgren, pianist Kasper Villaume, bassist Marc Davis and drummer Karsten Bagge, who work seamlessly together like parts in a well-oiled machine. Lundgren, we're told, is known more as a section player than soloist. Based on the testimony presented here, he should solo more often, as he unveils a remarkable knack for persuasive improvisation. As for Rockwell, he reminds me, sonically and stylistically, of my favorite young American tenor, Eric Alexander, which is high praise indeed, as I believe that Alexander stands head and shoulders above his peers. Even so, Rockwell's no clone; he has a number of creative ideas to impart, which he does candidly and without a trace of self-indulgence, either on tenor or soprano (which Rockwell plays on ¡°If Love Is Like a Lark,¡± ¡°Moon and Sand¡± and ¡°Lovers and Losers¡±). Villaume is yet another able soloist, as he proves on several occasions.
The songs that Rockwell has chosen are rather unexpected, as they are not among Wilder's better-known works¡ªthe only two whose names I recognized are ¡°Moon and Sand¡± and ¡°Lady Sings the Blues.¡± What this says, above all else, is that there is far more to Alec Wilder than ¡°I'll Be Around,¡± ¡°While We're Young¡± or ¡°It's So Peaceful in the Country.¡± Even though obscure, each of these melodies is thoroughly enchanting, which serves to heighten one's sense of discovery.
My reaction to the album as a whole is best summed up in the title of the opening track, ¡°I Like It Here.¡± My guess is that you would too. I don't often dwell on playing times, but when an album clocks in at 78: 10, as this one does, it's at least worth mentioning. What's more important from the listener's point of view is that each of those minutes is neatly planned and extremely rewarding.