ANTHONY E NELSON JR — Swinging Sunset (review)

ANTHONY E NELSON JR — Swinging Sunset album cover Album · 2023 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Anthony E. Nelson Jr. is a powerhouse tenor sax player who usually records contemporary hard bop with a gospel influence. On his latest album, “Swinging Sunset”, he delves into the music of his youth and pays tribute to the classic Hammond B3 trios on the east coast in the 50s and 60s. B3 jazz has been making a big comeback lately, often with contemporary RnB and funk influences, but for this very special outing, Nelson and his crew purposefully leave out anything modern sounding and go for that classic retro sound that used to be popular in lounges in Harlem and big cities in nearby New Jersey. The Hammond trio is very much an urban east coast thing as it never really caught on with west coast bands who were more into bongos, flutes, French horns and the occasional sitar. Classic B3 jazz is very much a no-nonsense blue collar thing that was made for people who wanted to party, not just sit and listen.

The 50s-60s tenor players were channeling the old swing players like Coleman Hawkins with a more melodic approach than the bebop and post bop players, although the bop influence is often there too. For this album, Nelson’s main inspiration is the very soulful and bluesy Gene Ammons, one of the kings of classic tenor playing in a B3 trio setting. Anthony’s band mates on here include organist Kyle Koehler who does a great job of using the sounds and organ stops of that era and drummer Cecil Brooks III, who usually plays with the more ‘outside’ crowd, but keeps it straight with the retro style for this one.

“Swinging Sunset” has a nice balance of tunes ranging from ballads, to mid-tempo blues and a couple blazing fast boppers too. One highlight is a high speed reading of Johnny Griffin’s oddly titled, “Mildew”. Stanley Turpentine’s “Minor Chant” has an unstoppable soul jazz groove and Nelson displays his gospel roots with a bluesy reading of the traditional, “Walk With Me”. One extra feature of this album is Anthony’s very thoughtful liner notes in which he goes into great detail about all the great tenor players he heard at the clubs when he was young. He includes a very long list of great musicians who you may have never heard of before, but who were all great players all the same. Its nice that someone has taken the time to preserve their legacy.

One salient statement from Nelson’s notes that stands out as he describes the nature of this music is, “Groove was never sacrificed for complexity, yet was proven by means of every foot tapping head bopping to standing and seated dancing.”
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