About the album
You could call this Phase 2 in Paul Heller’s master plan – to record a trilogy of small group studio sessions with various dream bands. On Vol. 1, released in 2010, it was a quartet featuring bassist John Goldsby, 75-year-old Dutch drumming legend John Engels and pianist Michael Abene, musical director of the WDR Big Band Cologne, which has been Heller’s full-time employer since 2005. This time out, the accomplished tenor saxophonist-composer and potent improviser joins forces with bassist Goldsby once again along with longtime colleague Olaf Polziehn on piano and jazz great Al Foster on drums. The result is a stirring collection of hard boppish swingers and poignant ballads from the pen of Heller, executed with uncanny precision and indelible chemistry by a group that sounds like it had been together for years. Foster, who underscores the entire session with his signature swing factor on the burners and an elegant touch on the ballads, contributes one composition. While Heller continues to play a key role in the WDR Big Band Cologne, he was pleased to step out in this small group setting, where his authoritative blowing and infinite capacity to swing become all the more apparent. And though he is already regarded as one of Germany’s most formidable improvisers and accomplished composers, Stateside jazz fans are only now getting hip to Heller. On Special Edition, Vol.2, he distinguishes himself as a talent deserving of wider recognition. – Bill Milkowski
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