Wayne Escoffery, The Humble Warrior
Wayne Escoffery is a New York city based tenor saxophonist and composer. He moved to New York City in 2000, and has since become a respected rising star in the Jazz world and an in-demand sidemen. At only 32 he has recorded four CDs as a leader and been on numerous recordings as a sideman. Escoffery gained recognition while touring and recording with The Eric Reed Septet. In 2001, he became a steady member of the Mingus Big Band/Orchestra/Dynasty, The Lonnie Plaxico Group, and Abdulah Ibrahim’s Akaya. Then in 2004 Grammy award winning producer, arranger and trumpeter Don Sickler asked Escoffery to be a part of Ben Riley’s Monk legacy Septet. In 2006, Wayne secured one of the most coveted gigs in jazz: a frontline position in Tom Harrell’s working quintet. Escoffery has performed with many word class jazz musicians, such as Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter. Wayne also leads his own group and performs internationally with The Mingus Band and Abdullah Ibrahim. A Grammy Award and DownBeat Critics Poll winner, He is now releasing, The Humble Warrior. The album marks Escoffery’s leader debut for Smoke Sessions Records, and features pianist David Kikoski, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Ralph Peterson. Trumpet great Randy Brecker and guitarist David Gilmore make a guest appearance.
The album opens with Escoffery play a solo saxophone intro to the track titled, “Chain Gang.” Instantly his tone captivates the ear as he goes from low to high on his horn. The band enters with a powerful modern harmonic figure. The melody has a multiple twist and turns, and the form has two feels. Kikoski’s solo statement is first. His lines have direction and are accented with chordal punches. Escoffery starts his solo with a melodic motif the builds to cascading sounds of sixteenths. The quartet quickly builds the energy and Escoffery maintains it for the duration of his solo.
The temper is more subdued with the laid-back “Quarter Moon.” Escoffery’s tone is balance throughout the meditative melody with Kikoski lending added colors and fills. There are plenty of moments of pleasure and charm on this one. Escoffery shows another side that is more melodic and especially engaging on this solo. Okegwo and Peterson preside over the rhythmic component with a center big pulse that swings for days.
The Humble Warrior earns respectable marks for compositions, choice of sidemen, and flow of material. Escoffery shows he is not only a reliable sideman in groups large and small, but has the skills to take his music to the spotlight as leader of his own ensemble. He gives his bandmates ample space to sparkle. The Humble Warrior is an album full of adeptness, assurance and plenty of great listening moments.