Listening to saxophonist Arnold Sterling's "Here's Brother Sterling" brings to mind adjectives like "sturdy" and "promising." Faint praise, perhaps, but the album doesn't really inspire superlatives.
The music is well played, accessible and, when the groove turns blue or funky, true to Sterling's models: Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley. That alone should be recommendation enough for anyone who hasn't yet heard this young Baltimorean perform.
Best known for his work with organist Jimmy McGriff, Sterling shares McGriff's ability to create and sustain a mood. He demonstrates this time and again -- on the seductive funk number "Super Blue," on a lovely version of "Skylark," on Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman." Sterling never strays far from the melody, but he dresses it up with a singing tone and considerable help from trumpeter Virgil Jones and keyboardist Junior Mance.
The album's highlight, though, is an original piece called "Sterling Silver." Here, the more durable and exciting contours of modern jazz suit everyone, and the results point to a path Sterling should pursue on future recordings. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM ARNOLD STERLING -- Here's Brother Sterling, (JAM Records, JAM 010). THE SHOW ARNOLD STERLING, Monday and Tuesday at Blues Alley with Jimmy McGriff.