Drummer Alvin Queen is a virtual dynamo. On I Ain’t Looking At You, he generates an explosive fusion of down-home blues and dynamic straight-ahead arrangements from his ensemble of young jazz stars.
Joining him are stratospheric trumpeter Terrell Stafford and creative Bird-influenced alto player Jesse Davis. Making sure the soulful quotient is high, guitarist Peter Bernstein and Hammond B-3 organist Mike LeDonne round out the quintet.
Queen got his start in the sixties, playing with stalwarts including Stanley Turrentine, Harry Edison and Charles Tolliver. He took up residence in Switzerland in the seventies, playing throughout Europe over the years with occasional trips to the States. This is his first U.S. release in a long while, and the nine selections consist of seven familiar blues-tinged tunes and two originals by LeDonne.
From the first track, Shirley Scott’s groovy, Basie-like “There’s Blues,” the listener is hooked. The pulsating ensemble passages lead to solos backed by Queen and LeDonne’s rocking rhythm.
Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven” is the clincher, starting with a solo by Queen, who then rhythmically stitches together Davis’ rapid-fire bursts and Stafford’s virtuoso runs.
The title track features in-your-face funk—Horace Silver would be proud. As well, the group does more than justice with its version of Silver’s “Nutsville,” with Bernstein helping LeDonne to pull out the stops in a wall of sound.
LeDonne’s mellow “Shirley’s Song,” a nod to organist Scott, provides Bernstein a solid solo opportunity. In a quiet mood, “Old Folks” features the plaintive wail of Davis’ alto, complementing Stafford’s muted trumpet.
I Ain't Looking at You has “blues” written all over it. On the final number, “Mellow Soul,” just see if a jazz-blues fan, surrounded by growling trumpet, wailing sax and shouting organ, can keep from snapping fingers and head-bobbing in time.