A bright, energetic tenor saxophonist, Wayne Escoffery always plays with great feeling and fun. Often he does so as a sideman to modern jazz masters, but occasionally he gets the chance to lead his own, hard-swinging groups. With a quartet in tow, he made one of his biggest gigs yet when he stays a week at the Village Vanguard for the first time as a bandleader. NPR Music and WBGO were there to capture part of it, in a live on-air broadcast and online video webcast heard on this page at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, Jun. 9.
Escoffery's latest quartet record, 2009's Uptown, found him working out a variety of original tunes in the company and deep groove of an organ quartet. (His latest disc is a Tides Of Yesterday, a collaboration with vocalist Carolyn Leonhart, his wife.) But he went acoustic for his Vanguard residency, and called a number of attractive new originals — all in the spirit of friendly, modern post-bop — on Wednesday night's early set. Being his mother's birthday, he dedicated "Selena's Song" to her; in remembering the late pianist Hank Jones, Escoffery played Jones' ballad "Angel Face." Three veteran New York sidemen in pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Billy Drummond were along for the ride.
Born in the U.K., Escoffery spent his adolescence in Connecticut. There, his budding talent was discovered by Jackie McLean, who offered him a full ride to his jazz program at the University of Hartford, leading to further study with the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. After moving to New York, Escoffery quickly found himself busy, notably in groups like the Mingus Dynasty bands, Ben Riley's Monk Legacy ensemble, Jazz at Lincoln Center-commissioned ensembles and those fronted by singers such as Leonhart.
Perhaps his most visible role is alongside trumpeter Tom Harrell's outstanding straight-ahead quintet. NPR Music and WBGO actually recorded that ensemble at the Village Vanguard in 2009. But when Escoffery took the stage on Wednesday, it was his name atop the sign by the staircase.
- "Chick's Tune"
- "If I Am, Who You Were"
- "Selena's Song"
- "Perilous Desires"
- "Angel Face" (Hank Jones)
- "Banishment Of The Lost Spirit"
all compositions by Wayne Escoffery unless otherwise indicated
- Wayne Escoffery, tenor saxophone
- Kevin Hays, piano
- Joe Martin, bass
- Billy Drummond, drums
- Josh Jackson, producer and host
- David Tallacksen, mix engineer
- Alex W. Rodriguez, recording assistant