Jammin' Uptown

Jammin' Uptown

by Alvin Queen


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Jammin' Uptown

Drummer extraordinaire Alvin Queen may not be terribly well known among more casual jazz listeners, but he should be. He suffers the same fate that many players before him -- reed and woodwind master Sahib Shihab is one such example -- and countless others did: he relocated to Europe in the 1970s (and has lived and worked mainly in Geneva since then). Queen's résumé includes time with Charles Tolliver, Kenny Drew, Big John Patton, Horace Parlan, Junior Mance, Pharoah Sanders, Bob Berg, Bennie Wallace, and Leon Thomas, to name a few. In addition to his various playing gigs, Queen owned a label for a while that made some truly fine records, including Soul Connection, Big John Patton's only date as a leader during the 1980s. Jammin' Uptown was recorded and released on Nilva in 1985. This date features a stellar band comprised of then-Young Lions such as Terence Blanchard on trumpet and trombonist Robin Eubanks. Completing the front line is Emmanuel "Manny " Boyd, a veteran of Bobby Hutcherson's and Eddie Henderson's bands in the 1970s. The rhythm section includes veteran pianist John Hicks, Ray Drummond on bass, and Queen in the drum chair. The seven compositions are all by bandmembers. The music here is progressive jazz -- in other words, very advanced hard bop. Blanchard wrote "Europia," a poignant number considering Queen's exile in Geneva. It comes roaring out of the gate with a very knotty staccato head, twisting and turning on a minor seventh in three different configurations before he begins his solo, which Boyd follows on tenor. These are steamy, pushed-to-the-margin affairs, fueled by the stomping rhythm section -- Queen's breaks are especially fine and Hicks' brief solo is all drama and tension, but it all swings like mad. The title cut by Boyd struts and swaggers right out of the blues with its staggered front-line plays on the melody. But it's not simply a blues; it moves harmonically through various thematic and key changes. Eubanks' solo is the high point on this tune. Another notable tune is Hicks' straight hard bopping "Mind Wine." With a head worthy of Blue Note in the early '60s, it nonetheless stretches the harmony toward something that could have been performed by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. His own dazzling solo is one of the album's many high points. Everyone is in excellent form here -- the execution and fluid rhythms complement the complex arrangements quite well and Queen truly shines in the spotlight as a drummer of real consequence. [Justin Time's Just a Memory imprint reissued this date on CD in 2008. The CD version contains a live bonus track in the middle of the album: Queen's solo showcase "Hear Me Drummin'," which is just stellar.]

Product Details

Release Date: 06/10/2008
Label: Just A Memory
UPC: 0068944916429
catalogNumber: 9164
Rank: 104261

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