The Uptown Shuffle
On the second release from the new Smoke Sessions label (the first was a trio set by pianist Harold Mabern that also features drummer Joe Farnsworth), alto saxophonist Vincent Herring drives his quartet through a straightahead set that packs a wallop with a double-fisted bout of unrelenting swing. Opener "Elation" sets the tone immediately. Herring leads the charge with a brash blast that never fades. Pianist Cyrus Chestnut is quick on his heels, offering a rapid-fire right-hand technique that captures him at his most jubilant and forceful. Chestnut maintains that excitement throughout. His tune "Uptown Shuffle" grants the album its name and he strafes a series of octaves over the hard-bopping jam but not before Herring bends and burns a jagged wail on the smashing proceedings. Elsewhere, the band tackles a handful of well-worn standards including a swaggering "Love Walked In" and a meditative "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" that features Chestnut's balance of dexterity and playfulness. The set concludes with Duke Pearson's "Big Bertha," an undersung gem that should be in every hard-bop handbook. It serves as the band's theme and is sadly cut short by a set break. The band energizes all of their fare with an upbeat blast, capturing the best of a night out on the town.