The alto saxophonist Vincent Herring projects his sound in a strong, centered beam, and even his most intense moments suggest a controlled combustion. You could chalk that up to experience — Herring, 50, has been playing seriously since his teens — but it probably has as much to do with disposition. There’s footage of him with Horace Silver’s band in the 1980s, sounding like he does now, slashing but calm.
So maybe it’s the suggestion of something held in reserve that has kept Herring from an A-list solo career. Or maybe it’s the idea that he has followed in the wake of Cannonball Adderley, an alto saxophone hall of famer whose style he can willfully evoke (not least in the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band). Whatever the case, Herring should have a higher profile, as he confirms with a smart new album, “Night and Day.”
As with Herring’s 2013 album, “The Uptown Shuffle,” recorded live at Smoke Jazz Club and released on the Smoke Sessions label, the music here puts a contemporary spin on hard-bop, with a rhythm team of Brandi Disterheft on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. But whereas that album featured a quartet, this one involves a quintet with the pianist Mike LeDonne and an excellent trumpeter, Jeremy Pelt, out front.
Herring and Pelt have a crisp and jostling rapport, and in moments like a headlong dash through Donald Byrd’s “Fly, Little Bird, Fly,” each elevates the other’s game.
And when Herring tips his hat, as on an original, “The Adventures of Hyun Joo Lee,” named for one of his students and built over a chord sequence by John Coltrane, he sounds unburdened by expectations. Still, there’s no doubting his sincerity on “Theme for Jobim,” composed by a dearly missed former mentor, Cedar Walton, or on “Walton,” a swinging homage by LeDonne, which elicits one of the album’s juiciest alto solos.
Nate Chinen, New York Times News Service