CD Review: Patrick Cornelius – Maybe Steps

Patrick Cornelius – Maybe Steps
(Posi-Tone PR8089. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Artists change, reach new phases in their lives. Alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius used to be known for his fiercely self-disciplined practise regimes. But in his new album ‘Maybe Steps’ (Posi-Tone) he demonstrates that he has progressed well beyond the cauldron of Berklee and 4am jam sessions. He now has a wife and small daughter, and has gone with the flow of that gentler life revolving around a young family.

The CD reveals the softer contours of that world, particualrly when contrasted with the last album Fierce (Whirlwind, 2009) The new album is dedicated to his mother, wife and daughter. He is pictured cradling his alto saxophone as a parent would hold a crying baby. In most of its eleven tracks, the core vibe of the album is calm.

The mood of tranquillity gets set best in Bella’s Dreaming, which starts in the world of a Satie Gymnopedie and through its short span grows effortlessly over a faultless bass pulse from Peter Slavov. There are also French colours in the closer, Le Rendez-Vous Final, an endearing tune with echoes of Michel Legrand. I liked A Day Like Any Other, which rollicks in lilting 5/4. Shiver Song is the busiest track on the album, and stands in nice contrast to the rest.

The album gives a important role to pianist Gerald Clayton who sets a poised and balanced vibe in the hushed introduction to my pick of the tracks, Into the Stars. Soft brushwork from Kendrick Scott on drums lead to a unison duet of alto and guitar (the sensitive musicianly Miles Okazaki) which grows inexorably. I particularly enjoyed the skyward rocket let off by Patrick Cornelius at 4:13.

The two standards are contrasted. Kurt Weill’s My Ship is performed in duo with Bulgarian-born pianist Asen Doykin, as the gentlest of lullabies, with some tasty re-harmonisation to watch out for on the final statement of the theme. George Shearing’s Conception gives interesting variety through exploring a couple of trio combinations derived from the quintet.

This is a thoughtfully put together album. Producer Marc Free has put out his ideas on CD production lucidly here, and this release is a demonstration of what happens – in life and in CD production – when things find a way of going right.

Posi-Tone Records

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