Bernd Reiter Quintet feat. Eric Alexander Workout at Bird’s Eye
(Steeplechase SCCD33123). CD Review by Peter Jones
A defiant clatter of snare drum introduces this joyously retro live set from young Austrian drummer Bernd Reiter. Aided by the doyen of New York mainstream tenor saxophone, Illinois-born Eric Alexander, Reiter and his band swing through the kind of collection that might have been cut by Dexter Gordon when he too was on the Danish Steeplechase label in the mid-Seventies. And everyone’s wearing suits on the cover, natch.
Not that Alexander possesses the instantly identifiable Gordon tone (he uses vibrato only sparingly), but he does have that effortless authority and melodic style. The sleek Helmut Kagerer on guitar also has his ears fixed on the jazz of the Seventies mainstream – in his case, Grant Green springs to mind, but also – of course – the immortal Wes Montgomery. And pianist Olivier Hutman takes on the Kenny Drew/Wynton Kelly role with terrific panache.
One of the many enjoyable things about the album is the length of the tracks. Reiter’s cavalier disregard for the likelihood of radio play makes a nice change – there are only six tracks, none of them clocking in at under 8½ minutes. So everyone gets to stretch out and blow.
As the album’s title suggests, several tunes are taken from Hank Mobley’s catalogue: the title track and Uh Huh (from his 1962 Workout album) plus Getting’ and Jettin’ (from Another Workout, recorded in 1961 but not released until 1985). The other three tracks are an unrecognizable I Want To Hold Your Hand, Jimmy Van Heusen’s All The Way and Tadd Dameron’s Super Jet.
The whole enterprise is suffused with energy and warmth. In fact there’s nothing not to like here, apart from a bit of intrusive snare rattle triggered by Viktor Nyberg’s double bass – tough to avoid on a live recording. The musicians are all at the top of their game and locked in together in a way that only develops after a good spell on the road. Kids – if you want to know how to swing, listen to this. Oldies – listening to Workout is like sinking into a hot bath at the end of a tough working day.