Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2014: dig! magazine Turns Ten!

Grant Stewart and Eric Alexander: Reeds and Deeds

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There are so many great contemporary artists out there with their own unique vision of this music. If I could bring anybody I wanted to Winnipeg, it would be Grant Stewart and Eric Alexander, two of the greatest modern tenor players, each of whom have absorbed and filtered the history of the instrument through their dynamic improvising.

Stewart and Alexander make up the tough tenor duo, Reeds and Deeds. Their playing might be downplayed as repetitive or too traditional, but I disagree. I don’t think I’ve heard more original ideas than at one of their concerts or on one of their three recordings, Wailin’ (2005), Cookin’ (2006), and Tenor Time (2011), all on the Criss Cross Jazz label.

The beauty of bringing the two together is to be able to hear the contrasts in their playing. Each of them brings a distinctive sound, rhythmic and harmonic approach, feel, and melodic concept to jazz standards. Eric Alexander comes more out of George Coleman and early John Coltrane, whereas Grant Stewart has a heavy dose of Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt and Charlie Parker. Both of them also point to Dexter Gordon as a primary influence.

If they were to hit the stage in Winnipeg, you would hear two great improvisers take their turn at weaving creative, unique ideas over a swinging rhythm section (which includes artists such as David Hazeltine, John Webber, Harold Mabern, Peter Washington, Kenny Washington, and Joe Farnsworth). Not only that, but you would get a chance to see firsthand two saxophonists who are both firmly rooted in tradition, but sound completely unique.

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