If you ever want to put your significant other in the mood for love, try playing any tune on Joe Alterman's new CD, particularly one where Joe and his mentor Houston Person jam and groove. Everybody knows or should know who Houston Person is. He's the legendary Soul Jazzman known for the sassy but sensuous tones he lures from his tenor sax. As for Joe Alterman, you may well ask, Joe Who?
Joe Alterman is the 23-year-old Atlanta native, who arrived in New York in 2007 to study music at NYU, just graduated with a B.A. and is staying around for an advanced degree. Joe's musical journey began at the age of 5, which is when he started tickling the ivories, and continued through the Bluegrass festivals to which his brothers took him until their father, who felt Jazz was a better fit for Joe, started buying bluesy jazz recordings for Joe and once again proved that Father knows best.
Last month, to promote his new CD, Joe appeared at a few of the top Jazz spots in New York including the Hotel Kitano, the Vagabond Café and the pinnacle of jazz joints, Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, where I heard him play with Houston Person, and Joe's dream rhythm section, bassist James Cammack and drummer Gregory Hutchinson - neither one of them chopped liver.
The 23-year-old Joe and the 78-year-old Person easily bridge what-many-consider the abyss between youth and age. How? Basically by both being young at heart. At Dizzy's Club, Alterman appeared on stage first - a nice, modest, polite, slender, clean-cut young man with Kennedy family hair. In a standard light blue dress shirt, a yellow striped tie, grey slacks, black and grey argyle socks and (ugh!) brown shoes, he looked like an accountant taking a mid-audit break. Actually, Alterman resembles Woody Allen, a fellow artist whose talent also outshines his attire, but Joe is cuter, more accessible and happier. Happier? Alterman looks absolutely ecstatic that he's playing at Dizzy's with Houston et al and that perfect strangers are perfectly willing to cough up bucks to hear him do what he loves best. There were so many patrons waiting in line that chairs had to be lugged in to seat them all.
On piano keys, Joe's fingers become feathers. He opened with the toe-tapping, swinging, title tune on his CD, Give Me The Simple Life followed by an act of musical alchemy which transformed Time After Time into a lush, sensuous, syncopated, sophisticated aphrodisiac that made me consider committing unspeakable acts. It also made me want to dance. Fortunately, Joe danced for me, jiggling his head and shoulders, shifting and sliding his torso across the bench and tapping/stomping his feet on the floor. Once Houston Person turned the trio into a quartet, Houston's masterful, titillating but restrained tenor sax blended with Joe's lush piano and created music that makes you long for a loving emotional connection rather than a mere friends-with-benefits activity.
Joe has obviously followed Houston Person's advice. "Never forget that audiences want to enjoy themselves. " They did!!! "Never lose the blues or you'll sound like you're practicing. " Joe hasn't!!! Thanks to Houston, Joe has also embraced rich, offbeat, tuneful standards. Alas, Joe and Houston have no gigs together lined up for the immediate future, but if you love lush, romantic, endearing jazz as well as down home blues, treat yourself to Joe's new debut CD, Joe Alterman, Give Me the Simple Life on Miles High Records and let Joe and Houston give you a glimpse of musical glory.