Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Sept. 21, 2012
Elias HaslangerChurch on Monday (Cherrywood Records)
From the moment Church on Monday opens, with saxophonist Elias Haslanger leaning into a finger-poppin' boogaloo on the title track, there's no letting up. Native Austinite and pillar of the local jazz scene, the tenor hornsman leads his sterling quintet in a set of tunes inspired by sax stylist Stanley Turrentine's classic 1964 Blue Note LP, Hustlin'. Haslanger's mentor and longtime collaborator Dr. James Polk on B-3 organ and former Joey DeFrancesco guitarist Jake Langley cut a formidable, three-pronged attack that eschews any muscle-flexing outside playing deep, earthen, blues-drenched instrumentals. This is particularly evident on the swingin' shuffles "Trouble No. 2" and "Buffalo," a number written by late Austin trumpeter Kenny Dorham. It's also in the rhythm section of bassist Daniel Durham and drummer Scott Laningham really laying it in the pocket. Since his first album in 1994, Standards, Haslanger has consistently demonstrated a penchant for ageless chestnuts, and this session is no exception. His version of "On a Clear Day" is simply divine, fashioning a creamy, satin-smooth tone that harkens back to an earlier era of big-toned tenor men. Likewise, he breathes fresh ideas into Randy Weston's "Hi-Fly" and Kurt Weill's "Speak Low." After a six-year recording hiatus, Elias Haslanger not only returns in top form, he goes to Church.