Austin Jazz Workshop

Record review

Texas Platters

Austin Jazz Workshop

Big Boss Tenor (Ausjazz Music)

The Austin Jazz Workshop may have the most important gig in town: bringing jazz into area public schools. Big Boss Tenor is a culmination of their 11th season, which celebrated Tough Texas Tenors; in this instance, the long horns belong to AJW mastermind Mike Melinger and the ubiquitous Alex Coke. The two saxophonists have complementary styles, Melinger offering a creamy, burnished sound to Coke's sharper-toned and craggier delivery. Culled from three live dates employing varying rhythm sections, this is the fourth disc under the AJW aegis. It's also the first to feature all original compositions, most by either Melinger or Coke. These compositions, the same ones performed in the schools, are a huge part of the album's success, offering a wide stylistic palette ranging from the Brazilian bounce of "Big Tenor Bossa" and bluesy swagger of "Imperial Twilight" to South Africa-meets-Far East swing of "Pool Hall in Bangkok." Pianist Shawn Ellison even draws a clever Allman Brothers connection from the latter. Were these tunes more succinct, Big Boss Tenor might inhabit its title better, but this is a strong offering nonetheless, and one our children are fortunately getting the opportunity to hear in person.

***

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