Live at the Gallery

Although tenor saxophonist Elias Haslanger was born, raised and lives in Austin, Texas, he's pretty far afield from such tenormen as Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb, the famous saxophonists whose full-bodied playing in Lionel Hampton's band back in the 1940s established the tradition of the Texas Tenors. Recorded at an Austin club with his band, Church on Monday—Dr. James Polk, B3; Jake Langley, guitar; Daniel Durham, bass; and Scott Laningham, drums—Haslanger's sound on Live at the Gallery ranges from the screeching on “One for Daddy-O” to the thin soup of “I Thought About You” to the robust slow blues of “Goin' Down.” For me the real attraction on this CD lies in the playing of Polk and Langley, whose solos are always meaty and enhance each tune. Durham gets a couple of nice solo spots and Laningham earns extra points for his supportive—rather than commandeering—playing throughout. That said, Haslanger—whose 25-year career includes having toured in Maynard Ferguson's band and releasing six CDs since 1994—does a very nice job on Horace Silver's “Song for My Father” and “Adam's Apple,” an upbeat original. Herbie Hancock's “Watermelon Man” is one of those tunes you can't play badly and this group gets into the groove right off the bat. In sum, I give the sidemen more points than the leader.