CD reviews

Keith Oxman – “Two Cigarettes In The Dark”

Keith Oxman – Two Cigarettes In The Dark (Capri 74161-2. CD review by Peter Vacher)

Tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman is a new name to me but not to Capri Records, for this is his eleventh release on the label. A confident soloist, the Denver-based musician is positioned stylistically somewhere between Zoot Sims for his fluency, and Sonny Stitt for his attack. Doubling as a jazz educator, he’s transcribed and published several books of Stitt’s standout solo improvisations.

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Keith Oxman album coverVery sensibly, he enlisted the veteran, but still potent, tenor soloist Houston Person to complement what he is doing here, the older man with his meatier tone providing a pleasing contrast. Where Oxman is busy, Person is more sparing, allowing his succulent sound and innate sense of timing to re-shape his view of a melody. Oxman opens I’ve Never Been In Love Before in filigree fashion, before Person takes over, spacious, ahead of Oxman’s neat paraphrase; the two take it in turns to improvise with the rhythm team nicely placed as they are throughout. Pianist Jeff Jenkins, a frequent Oxman sideman, is neatly boppish, here and elsewhere.

In a pleasing mix of standards and originals, Oxman then moves on with a piece of his own, Voss is Boss, perkier over a stop-time theme, Person sitting it out, as he does on four of the album’s ten tunes, Jenkins heard at length. Everything Happens To Me is the first of two vocal slots for Annette Murrell, another old associate of Oxman’s and, on this evidence, a slightly shaky devotee to Sarah Vaughan’s more adventurous aspects, both tenorists suitably laconic in their accompaniments, before Oxman opens up. The title track is a winner, easing along in swinging fashion, these soloists clearly taken with this venerable old tune. Hank Mobley’s Bossa for Baby is an equally mellow performance with Person roused to offer his most complete run-down on its theme.

In a way, this feels like one of those club sessions you come on unexpectedly in some far-off corner, the pleasure as much one of discovery as it is of deeper aesthetic satisfaction. Here’s an array of highly capable jazz musicians simply doing what they do best: taking decent songs and making something memorable out of them. No new hurdles are overcome or new ground broken. Mark this as mainstream for the initiated.

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