This DVD from Al Foster is from a July 25, 2007 concert, taped at the New Morning nightclub in Paris. For the gig, Foster's usual quartet, featuring bassist Doug Weiss, saxophonist Eli Degibri, and one of several pianists, has been augmented to a quintet with the addition of trumpeter Eddie Henderson. The piano chair is actually filled by two different players; Aaron Goldberg plays on the first five tracks, George Colligan on the last five.
No longer trying to push the envelope of innovation, Tyner settles down with a pair of experts and carves out a very nice, fairly orthodox piano trio album. This is Tyner reaffirming most of his strengths: the massive tone quality, the two-handed control over the entire keyboard, and the generally uplifting attitude conveyed through the shape of his melodic invention.
On this early effort, pianist David Kikoski is joined by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Al Foster. While Kikoski’s use of synthesizers on several cuts dates the material to some degree, there’s still some great playing and writing to be heard. There are also historical details worth mentioning: “Dirty Dogs” would later appear on Billy Hart’s 1993 album Amethyst, and “Hope,” the opening track, would later appear on Al Foster’s 1997 album Brandyn (both of these later discs feature Kikoski himself). In addition to these and three other solid originals, there are also swinging versions of two Cole Porter tunes, “In the Still of the Night” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and a closing solo piano meditation on “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” Even though this is far from Kikoski’s most mature work, his harmonic wizardry and stunning chops are very much in evidence.
For Miles Davis, the six year layoff between the release of PANGAEA and THE MAN WITH THE HORN was marked by isolation, physical pain and dependency…a sense of inertia. At points on THE MAN WITH THE HORN you can hear him straining to get his chops back up, although ultimately, his musicianly instincts served him well during odd passages of rope-a-doping, and for every broken note there is a blast of vintage Miles.
THE MAN WITH THE HORN introduces yet another striking band, featuring future leaders such as reedman Bill Evans, guitarist Mike Stern, bassist Marcus Miller and drum innovator Al Foster. The opening "Fat Time" combines Miles' love for the flamenco airs and melodic gravity of Spain with a contemporary hard funk style. Evans and Stern act as virtuoso foils, a la Coltrane and Hendrix, the latter's influence apparent in Barry Finnerty's boiling clouds of distortion on "Back Seat Betty" (which settles into a coy, laid back blues vehicle for Miles' muted horn), and a rivetting "Aida," in which Miles reprises the rhythmic tumult of his mid-'70s band with dramatic give and take between his horn and a fiery guitar-driven vamp, as Al Foster thunders away underneath.
Davis's second recording since ending his six-year retirement was one of his best of the 1980s. Unlike his bands from the 1970s, this particular unit leaves plenty of space and plays much more melodically. Guitarist Mike Stern lets loose some fury, but electric bassist Marcus Miller is not reluctant to walk now and then in a straight-ahead fashion, drummer Al Foster and percussionist Mino Cinelu are tasteful, and Bill Evans gets in a few good spots on soprano. As for Davis, he was gradually regaining his earlier form. This double LP is highlighted by "Back Seat Betty," a side-long investigation of "My Man's Gone Now" and two versions of Davis's childlike "Jean Pierre."Scott Yanow