The listener is in for a treat any time an artist presents music that strikes a balance between catchy familiarity and aggressive creativity. Alto saxophonist Alexander McCabe accomplishes this with “Quiz” (Consolidated Artists Productions).

He’s accompanied by pianist Uri Caine, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummers Greg Hutchinson and Rudy Royston.

The set begins with the delightful “Weezie’s Waltz.” Played with an upbeat, 3-4 signature, this track shows the band’s playful side. McCabe plays with joy and freedom. Caine’s solo is brief but effective. Royston does a fine job, mixing things up on the drum kit while in the background, and also enjoying a solo.

The ensemble is more adventurous with “Lonnegan.” This lively piece largely features the piano, supported by some timely crash cymbal work by Hutchinson. Ukegwo solos over subtle drumming and piano. McCabe steps back in with an engaging call and response with the Hutchinson.

“Good Morning Heartache,” one of two covers, is a challenging, 12-minute piece. The first few minutes are largely abstract, with McCabe brooding with the alto. The other musicians provide ample background but no discernible rhythm – like a prolonged introduction. The song eventually becomes melodic. The mood is charming, perhaps even romantic – especially during Caine’s solo. After the bass solo, the song reverts to free-form mode.
McCabe is originally from Boston. After a sting with the Chico O’Farrell Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band, he became a featured soloist in Ray Charles’ orchestra. His work with ska band Mephiskapheles has been featured on several soundtracks, including the James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies.”


Alexander McCabe - Website