Howard Leshaw

Bud Kopman Review

Shadow Song by Howard Leshaw is so full of love of life, love of good music and love of New York City that I practically heard the Washington Square that is pictured on the liner. His saxophone sound, which is very pure, a bit on the thin side, but with soft edge and always the hint of vibrato at the end of a phrase, is everything that jazz should be.

The swing of "Sayief" is so easy, so deep and so wide that it easily swallows the listener up and floats her away. This is not something that can be learned, but must be felt. This is not to say that only someone from that older, golden generation can swing but that this level of attainment is quite rare. This applies not only to Leshaw, but the rest of the band: Jon Davis (piano), Paul Gabrielson (bass) and Dean Rickard (drums) who make up a quartet that is totally in sync. Another good example of this level of jazz heaven is Neal Smith's Some Of My Favorite Songs Are?.

After a light Brazilian gem in "Sirirat", we again go down deep into the solid swing of "Jade." The delightful melody although it has a standard structure, just floats over the light drums and great walking bass. Davis takes off here, and makes the most of it, playing neither too much nor too little. He knows when to take a breath and to leave some space; he is talking to us. Leshaw's answer is also precisely on the mark. Others might be able to say who he sounds like and who are his influences. To me, this matters little, because I am listening to a master who feels every note, loves what he is doing and is thankful to be able to be doing it.

"Flower" starts out as one big mystery, hinting at a ballad perhaps, but after about a minute, changes into one of the deepest blues I have heard in a long, long time. Leshaw sounds for all the world like Charles Lloyd in the way he uses the returning to the same note many times and slides up to others in order to sing directly from his soul. Davis also makes a fine showing here, albeit on the more modern, say, McCoy Tyner side of the blues, perhaps done for the contrast. In any case, the solo is thrilling.

Many times the tune that ends up as the title tune for the album is the one nearest to the heart of the leader. "Shadow Song" also evokes Lloyd in its wonderful introductory invocation of the spirit, before turning into a lightly swinging Latin rhythm. The feeling of the tune is one of openness, the spreading of wings and the joy of the freedom that comes from being able to communicate from deep inside.

Shadow Song is a terrific album that deserves a wide hearing. Leshaw and his bandmates are deep musicians who happen to play in a language that is easily understood but which is hardly simplistic. Just marvelous.


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