Saxophonist Alexander McCabe’s “Body and Soul” is smart, polished jazz

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“Body and Soul” is the sixth album from McCabe as a leader. The saxophonist has experiences in and out of jazz circles. On “Body and Soul” he is joined by musicians with whom he has collaborated before. The result is a recording is smooth without being overdone. The album is a mix of originals and classics.

About Alexander McCabe

McCabe is a saxophonist, pianist, and composer. His breadth of experience includes being a featured soloist with the Ray Charles Orchestra. McCabe’s ensemble experience also comes from playing in the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Big Band.

But non-jazz listeners have had opportunity to hear McCabe, too. His work can be heard on cable and non-cable network shows. Among them, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and “The Affair” on Showtime; the Chris Rock film, “Top Five,” and the long-running series, “Breaking Bad” on AMC. “Nurse Jackie,” “Skins,” and “Damages” are other premium network programming that feature his work.

McCabe is joined on “Body and Soul” by Paul Odeh on piano; Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Craig Wuepper on drums. McCabe plays soprano and alto saxophones on “Body and Soul.”

The sound of “Body and Soul” by Alexander McCabe

While the four originals are excellent, some listeners might want to dive into McCabe and company’s take on a classic. The title track, “Body and Soul” is spry and original. The bass showcase is a masterwork, and the horns are just splashy enough without being too brassy or overwhelming the soundscape. Like so many classic jazz tunes, it sounds as though it is helping to tell a story in a film, or simply narrating a thoughtful afternoon or evening. McCabe’s work here is beautiful and it meshes with that of the other players. There are melancholy touches that give the song nuance. The song plays gentle without being too understated.

“Elena” and “If I See Her” are two of McCabe’s originals. Both offer the kind of sophisticated feeling and well-tempered pace that lend the song to listening (and learning about jazz). McCabe’s considerable experience can be heard on these originals. Even when the saxophone goes on a relatively wild tear, the piano and other group members are steady. The complementary interaction between the bass and piano foreshadow the bass showcase on “Elena” and it is a nice touch. The whirling sensation created by the horns as the drums pound and snap keep listeners riveted until the very end.

“If I See Her” shares the sensibility offered up on “Elena,” but arguably with an extra touch of melancholy. The best moments come from the rhythmic small sounds: a motif of triplets on the bass, quick piano lines that give the song verve and movement.

“Body and Soul” soars, but never strays. Fans of jazz and fans of McCabe should find this album a masterpiece from a musician who has a long history of eclectic, but important work.

“Body and Soul” can be purchased at fine retailers everywhere. For more information about McCabe and his work, visit: http://amccabemusic.com.

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