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Jazz Reviews : Charles Mcpherson At Catalina's

May 12, 1987|L. F.

Charles McPherson, who once toured in a show called "The Musical Life of Charlie Parker," brought his alto sax and his Bird-like credentials to Catalina's on Friday, backed by the Alan Broadbent Trio.

Based for some years in San Diego, McPherson has not merely remained true to his bop origins but has expanded on them, both as improvising soloist and as composer. This wasn't always evident, however, during his first set, which hewed to the conventional lines of the ad hoc jazz group.

When a performer has played (and an audience has heard) "All the Things You Are" and "Body and Soul" in myriad versions, it may seem that he has reached a point of no recourse. True, McPherson preceded "Body and Soul" with a long, convoluted and ingenious unaccompanied cadenza, but when he finally plunged into the melody there was not too much of the sound of surprise.

His own composition, "Jazz Mantra," the only original work heard during this first set, best indicated his true potential. With its pensive minor riff and modal moments, it seemed to bring out more adventive impulses in McPherson as well as in Broadbent, who blends be-bop with impressionism, and in John Clayton, whose bass solos seem like melodies in their own right.

It was during the second show that McPherson's talent came into focus. No longer tentative, his sound bold and full, he brought his own values to three of his original pieces: "Horizons," with its shifting moods; "Illusions in Blue," a sort of 21st-Century variation on the blues with archly ingenious piano chording, and the rich, almost lushly evocative "A Tear and a Smile."

Having thus displayed his dual talents as composer/player, McPherson then felt free to tear into "Cherokee" at a breakneck pace. This tune has been the ultimate challenge for alto saxophonists ever since Parker's day, and it has seldom been rendered with more resolute vivacity. It ended with a drum solo by Charles McPherson Jr., the leader's 26-year-old son--still another addition to the swelling ranks of second-generation jazz men who are helping to indicate the shape of jazz to come.

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