Not to put anyone in mind of doing anything the Surgeon General wouldn’t, but there are times when Neal Alger’s guitar playing is so coolly expressive, and his wafting chords so subtle in their impact, you may think of cigarette smoke curling through space. As anyone who has seen his power rock trio, Needles in the Red, knows, that tells only part of his story as a musician. But as Alger has demonstrated through his long association with singer-pianist Patricia Barber, his affinity for mood, atmosphere and texture is runs deep.
All of which makes Alger’s Blue Note Quartet one of the more interesting bands performing hard bop classics by Joe Henderson, Horace Silver, Jackie McLean and other artists associated with the famous jazz label. Even songs that have been stuck in our heads for decades take on new life, courtesy of Alger’s sleek approach and the flexible playing of his bandmates: saxophonist Scott Burns, bassist Matt Ferguson and drummer George Fludas. Breathing in these melodies has been found to improve your well-being.