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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Mighty Long Way

Enja ENJ 9522-2



1. Mighty Long Way
2. Sushi
3. Cape Verdean Blues
4. Blues on Q
5. I Got a Woman
6. Backyard Blues
7. Alba
8. Let us Go into the House
9. Drum Thing

Alvin Queen - Drums
Terell Stafford - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Jesse Davis - Alto sax
Peter Bernstein - Guitar
Mike LeDonne - Hammond B3 organ
Neil Clark - Bongo drums, percussion
Elias Bailey - Bass (tracks 4-7)


Oscar Peterson had very high standards of musicianship, so anyone who played for him had to be top-class. Alvin Queen must be no mean drummer, since he was employed by Oscar Peterson during Oscar's final three years. And Alvin himself has an ear for top-quality players, as you can tell from his choice of musicians for this album.

Altoist Jesse Davis is the natural successor to Cannonball Adderley, with a similarly awesome technique and plenty of bright ideas as well as blues feeling. Guitarist Peter Bernstein is another artist whose playing is imbued with the blues, and I have already praised organist Mike Le Donne on this website. Terell Stafford is a trumpeter whose excellent technique is matched by clear articulation.

As for Alvin Queen, he has played with many great jazzers - such as Horace Silver, George Benson and Junior Mance - as well as many gospel artists, including the Stars of Faith and Marion Williams. The gospel influence is strong on this album, since Alvin wished to create the drive and passion of gospel music in these jazz tracks. This is particularly noticeable in Let Us Go into the House, which has a jazz-fusion beat but the testifying quality of passionate gospel music.

The CD includes several songs by Alvin's previous employers, including Horace Silver's Cape Verdean Blues and Oscar Peterson's Sushi and Backyard Blues. Alvin chose Sushi because Oscar Peterson used to feature him on this number, although the first solo is a storming invention from Jesse Davis, followed by a thrusting solo from Terell Stafford. However, the sound around Mike LeDonne's organ solo is somewhat fuzzy. Alvin eventually gets some short drum breaks. Backyard Blues has a stomping rhythm and soulfully bluesy contributions from LeDonne, Bernstein and Stafford.

Cape Verdean Blues is given an infectious Latin rhythm by Neil Clark's percussion. Clark is also featured on the final Drum Thing, a percussive conversation between him and Alvin Queen.

Blues on Q is a slow-burner composed by Jesse Davis, who also wrote the quicker Alba, which displays Alvin Queen's brilliance at the drums as well as Davis, Stafford and Bernstein's high-powered soloing. Ray Charles's I Got a Woman was heard by Queen when he visited the Apollo in Harlem and heard it played by organist Jimmy Smith. Mike LeDonne's righteous organising is suitably Smith-like. This is a real mover, ending with Alvin again showing his drumming expertise.

This CD proves that Alvin is not only a great drummer but also a man of discernment when putting a band together.

Tony Augarde 

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