With the November 2017 release of "The Music in the Night," saxophonist Rahsaan Barber reveals there's more to him than his reputation as composer of the cutting-edge modern jazz works that were the primary focus of his two previous albums, 2005's Trio Soul and 2011's Everyday Magic. Only glimpsed there were his gentle side and his skills as a gifted interpreter of standards that, in his hands, are transformed in fresh and highly original ways.
Every track on "The Music in the Night" is notable, ranging from the swinging opener, Stevie Wonder's joyous "Isn't She Lovely" to the gorgeous treatment of the Michael Jackson hit "She's Out of My Life"; from a reggae-tinged rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" to the Ray Charles classic "Georgia on My Mind" treated as a slow blues with a backbeat. Then there are versions of Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's "Skylark," the lyrics of which inspired the album title, and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Girl from Ipanema." While it never achieved the popularity to qualify as a standard, "The Backbone" (composed by bassist Butch Warren for a 1964 Dexter Gordon album) is a tour de force showcasing the chops of Barber's rhythm section: pianist Matt Endahl, drummer Derrek Phillips, and 20-year-old bassist Jack Aylor.