Steve’s newest recording is a first in his career as it features the original and bold sound of his Flute only–‘Todo Flute’–in a singular context of two drummers + bass, (Roman Diaz + Jason Tiemann) along with several cuts with new star pianist Keith Brown
( the great Donald Browns son). Also on one remarkable cut Steve plays duo with the great John Scofield on guitar.
The title, ‘Spirit Calls’, is a unique combination of music that includes a wide range of composers from Dvorak to John Coltrane and many more. Each track shines a different light on the Fat and Focused sound of his technically ambitious flute voice and arrangements for Flute. From the solo ‘tour de force’ of Coltrane’s late and challenging composition ‘Expression’ to an amazing Indian Bamboo Flute arrangement of Dvorak’s theme, ‘Goin Home’ ( from his New World Symphony) this recording, with such variety and the singular sound of his flute is certainly a groundbreaking recording.
( Also contained is a bonus track #10 played on Alto Sax with his Quartet!)
Steve was asked to play Alto Sax with the iconic Master McCOY TYNERS QUARTET in 2016-18 both on the road and in New York City.
Exploring the great and singular compositions of McCOY, and being under his leadership is a great and inspiring experience. I have always felt that along with being the pianist who made the most original advances on piano after Bud Powell – (which is saying an awful lot) , he also has a unique gift for composition, sometimes overlooked because of the ferocity of his piano playing.
There is nothing quite like being on the bandstand with the great McCoy Tyner!
Steve Slagle has composed the majority of these songs, dedicating each one of the nine compositions recorded to a special character or thing directly related to his musical journey. For example, the first tune that comes busting out the gate is “Sun Song.” He dedicated it to the great Sonny Rollins. Although Slagle admires the tone and talent of Rollins, he definitely has his own unique sound.
Slagle was once, many years ago, a member of Carla Bley’s band when bassist/composer Steve Swallow nicknamed him “Niner”. That’s what tune number two represents, the nickname given and one he fondly embraces. Both of these tunes Swing hard and bebop across my room, filling it with energy and ebullience.
As a leader, Slagle is in command at all times. But it’s his bandmates who keep the grooves going strong beneath his flurry of notes and improvisational treks. “Major In Come” flies like a sparrow on amphetamines. This title has a double meaning. It’s built on major chords in five different keys and it’s meant to challenge his band to Swing at an incredible and challenging pace. Lawrence Fields on piano does not disappoint, given several bars to showcase his versatile and improvised solo. Bassist, Scott Colley pounds out the time and grooves hard, hammering the rhythm section together by locking time succinctly with drummer Bill Stewart. On Stewart’s solo, you hear the fire and passion in each stroke of his sticks.
“Triste Beleza” that translates to ‘beautiful sadness’ was composed in tribute to the amazing and spirited music that has come out of Brazil. It sounds a wee bit like ‘Speak Low’, but quickly presents a very different melody for the band to embellish. Stryker adds his guitar magic on this song.
All in all, here is a well-produced album of well-played and excellent compositions by Steve Slagle. He has composed seven of the nine tunes and recorded one song written by his special guest, Dave Stryker titled “Corazon” and included the Wayne Shorter composition, “Charcoal Blues.” This is an album full of excitement and East Coast energy. On “Opener”, another one of my favorites, Roman Diaz makes this production shine with his percussive excellence. Slagle adds a flute towards the end of the tune that lifts the production to higher heights. And by the way, I love the artwork created for the inside cover by Ivan Pazlamatchev and titled for Slagle’s first cut, “Sun Song.” Most of these songs are full of heat and power, like the sun itself. This album is burning hot!
REVIEW OF DEDICATION FROM STEVE ELMAN
Steve Slagle: Dedication, is one of the best outings yet from a journeyman saxophonist I’ve admired since he was a student player in the Bean in the 1970s. His admiration for fellow altoists Cannonball Adderley and Jackie McLean is obvious in his work, but he also acknowledges the influences of tenor players Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. In fact, in this CD he dedicates each tune to a different important influence in his life, including McLean, Rollins, and Shorter, and stretching the idea to include “the great spirit of music from Brazil,” “swing and all its meaning,” and his child Sophia. Fortunately, the concept never gets in the way of the execution of a solid program. Example: Slagle glances at the repetitive figures of “East Broadway Run Down” and the calypso rhythm of “St. Thomas” in “Sun Song, “ the tune dedicated to Rollins, but he is completely himself in his strong solo. Another: “Sofi,” the tune for his 7-year-old daughter, is in 7/4, and includes a smart quote from Joe Zawinul’s “74 Miles Away,” a tune in the same time signature, but you don’t need to have a “hip card,” as Slagle says in the notes, to know that the performance is a keeper. Slagle also knows how to assemble a band of simpatico players (Lawrence Fields, piano; Scott Colley, bass; Bill Stewart, drums; and Roman Diaz, percussion), and brings in guitarist Dave Stryker as guest artist. Stryker has worked with Slagle off and on for a decade or so, and their rapport is obvious, particularly on “Niner.”
Jazz Music Archives Review of Dedication
By the time Steve was 18 he was already playing with Stevie Wonder, and since the Seventies he has followed a path that has seen him lead his own bands, played in others, and more recently has been in the Slagle/Stryker band. Guitarist Dave Stryker is special guest on this album, playing on six of the nine songs, and composing one of them (there is just one other non-Slagle original here, Wayne Shorter’s ‘Charcoal Blues”). Each of the nine songs here are dedicated to someone or something in particular, such as “Sun Song” being for Sonny Rollins, while “Sofi” is for Steve’s own daughter, Sophia.
When someone has been performing at the top of the game for forty years they are able to easily find star musicians to play with them, and each of those on this album need special mention as the combination of their talents is just superb. Lawrence Fields has an incredibly delicate touch on piano, either taking the lead, providing simple chords as an accompaniment or duetting gracefully with Steve. Scott Colley never seems to take a rest on his bass, as he moves all over the instrument providing counter-melodies, and drummer Bill Stewart is never content to sit in just one style or beat as provides fills, rim shots and breaks while somehow keeping it all together. Roman Diaz only features on five of the nine songs, but the use of conga and percussion adds a very Latin feel to the sound when he is involved.
Then of course there is the man himself out front, providing fluid solos and always leading the way. He also allows plenty of space within the arrangements so that his playing maintains its impact and never becomes just a blur of notes, but he keeps the soul of the music alive and swinging. There is always plenty of room for everyone to shine, and the vitality of the album is incredibly infectious. Music to make the jazz lover smile
JazzDaGama – Review of Dedication
In making artistic homage the theme of his record Dedication Steve Slagle shows not only how proficiently he can play in a variety of styles, but the depth of his appreciation of art is. He also shows how far he is willing to go to display his own art in each of these nine extraordinary compositions, each of which displays a profound knowledge of the musical topography that he traverses, which includes the Blues and Jazz, and in his take on Brasil and Latin America, with two wonderful songs that drinks from the well of the music of those cultures.
In “Triste Beleza”, for instance, Mr. Slagle has written what ought to be considered a song in which form, narrative and emotion work are woven one into the other and the third so flawlessly that only a Brasilian could have captured that evanescent emotion of “saudade” more perfectly and that too without having to use words evocative of that feeling of elemental loss. This is a narrative triumph which incidentally is wonderfully executed in performance with dazzling runs, breathtaking arpeggios and liquid glissandos.
Later, on Dave Stryker’s “Corazon”, he not only acknowledges that it is a composition “in a perfect key for alto” but he turns the piece into the equivalent of an instrumental aria. Mr. Stryker’s performance here is a fascinating example of his vocal style. And while it is true that essentially almost every instrumentalist endeavors to express music as if in emulation the human voice, few succeed like Mr. Slagle does, with his sinuous, yet in his singularly seductive virtually “singing” manner throughout t his album.
In other material, of course, such as the radiance of “Sun Song”, “Opener” and the meditative “Charcoal Blues” the saxophonist translates his experience of Black American music into a deeply-felt one. “Watching Over” captures the wondrous colour and momentum of Marc Chagall’s unique work with graceful movement and tone-colours that make it truly “many-splendoured”. And in the gleaming, buttery melody of “Sofi” is the epitome of what a perfect ballad ought to be.
Mr. Stryker has also, once again, picked a group of musicians born to play this repertoire. Lawrence Fields is brilliant as he shows that more than a “harmonic” spectator, he is a direct participant in the musical and emotional process. The same can be said of the inimitable bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart, both of whom are exquisitely tender on “Sofi”.
Román Díaz is equally wondrous outside his Afro-Cuban musical realm; indeed he brings the visceral excitement and vibrant Caribbean colour and texture to the “Sun Song” and Dave Stryker’s solo on “Charcoal Blues” is sensational. Both musicians also play on several other charts and bring interesting dimensions to each with breathtaking performances of their own.
Add to all of this is superb engineering by Chris Shulit and you have a faultless musical package from Steve Slagle.
Steve Slagle is a warrior, fierce but yet gentle at times, as he creates on his alto sax and flute. Steve comes to his new release, “Alto Manhattan”, bringing with him the musical stages of his life; those with the large ensembles of Lionel Hampton, Mingus, Carla Bley, Machito and Charlie Haden. Stages with Jack McDuff, Joe Lovano, Ray Barretto, Stevie Wonder, Milton Nascimento and the Beastie Boys. There’s also the long running band he co-leads with guitarist Dave Stryker.
“Family” opens the recording full out with Slagle’s alto exchanging friendly fire with terrorist Lovano. Adde to the roux are pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Gerald Cannon, drummer Bill Stewart and percussionist Roman Diaz.
McCoy Tyner’s “Inception” became a Slagle fave after he performed it with the legendary pianist. McCoy would dig this, pianist Fields providing the open space for Steve to groove.
“I Know That You Know” is a turn down, turn it out blues where everybody, like a high/low split, gets to declare.
One body. All soul. That’s Slagle’s solo venture on “Body & Soul”, an absolutely gorgeous one-take masterfully done.
“Viva La Familia” features Steve on flute in a latin groove infectious enough to press play again.
And again. Steve Slagle’s “Alto Manhattan” comes out January 6 from Panorama Records.
Steve Slagle – ALTO MANHATTAN: I’ve actually reviewed a lot of Steve’s superb sax and flute work before, on several albums he did with Dave Stryker (just search for “The Stryker Slagle Band, and you’ll find them). This is the first time (I believe) that I’ve heard him as a leader – and he SMOKES! Six of the nine cookin’ tunes on the release are originals, so that makes it (of course) even better!
He’s joined by some high-talent players… Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone & G mezzo soprano; Lawrence Fields doing piano; Gerald Cannon on bass; Roman Diaz on congas and Bill Stewart doing drums… as you listen to tunes like the 7:05 opener, “Family“, your ears will realize that you’ve discovered one of those true jazz gems… part of that is because all the players are present on this one, but it’s mainly because of the stellar energies they project through this powerful tune.
If it’s those hardcore “true blues” you’re yearning for, Steve & his core players will be your main band for quite some time to come after you listen to these guys get DOW-un in th’ dirt on the 7:01 “I Know That You Know“… and the recording is absolutely flawless – you’ll feel like they’re right there in your living room playing a personal set for you! I also loved the reed/keyboard interplay on “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry“… deep, rich tones that will (quite simply) astound you (as they did me; & I’m not that easily impressed these days, since I listen to so much great music).
It was Steve’s ultra-cool flute on the closing track, “Viva La Familia“, that wowed my ears to the point where the tune just HAD to be my personal favorite… again, on this track, you’ve got all the players (except for Joe Lovano), & they are in total “spontaneous mode” – about as close to improvised as one can get. Of course, you may find something that turns you on more, but I can say (without qualification) that this is some of the best sax/flute-led work I’ve heard (yet) in 2016. A truly illuminating jazz experience that totally merits the MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I’m giving it… my “EQ” (energy quotient) rating for this winning music is 4.99.
Alto Manhattan is a confident and intelligent follow-up to saxophonist Steve Slagle’s 2012 album Evensong. Kicking-off with a blues head (but with a twist) “Family” is a no-nonsense stormer benefitting from guests Joe Lovano on tenor sax and Roman Diaz on congas and some good tenor / alto “jousting” towards the end of the track. “Alto Manhattan” is Latino for the NYC area in which Steve lives, otherwise known as Upper Manhattan or The Heights. Here it’s represented by a brisk boppy number with Slagle leading a quartet on alto.
Slagle is heard alone wistfully soloing over the whole of Johnny Green’s “Body & Soul,” the first of three tracks not composed by the altoist. Slagle’s serpentine runs quizzically explore all the registers of the alto saxophone. McCoy Tyner’s modal “Inception” which first appeared on his 1962 debut album, here gradually transmutes into a minor blues. The affecting ballad “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,” the third and final non-original number in this set is followed by the breezy “A.M.” which again features Joe Lovano on tenor. “Holiday,” a light and airy paean to the late Toots Thielemans sees Slagle appearing here on flute and joined by Lovano on mezzo soprano sax.
The final number “Viva La Famalia” with Slagle once more on flute, has a relaxed Latin feel and is constructed over a simple obligato bass line, at times redolent of some of Herbie Mann’s extemporised pieces, rendering it as a satisfying conclusion to a very good album.