Saxophone virtuoso Talib Kibwe, now known as T.K. Blue, imbues his playing with so much elation that even classics come to life with new vitality. Celebrating his newest album, "Another Blue," Kibwe delivered a joyous set at Blues Alley on Monday night that demonstrated not only his proficiency on various woodwinds, but also his stylistic versatility.
After serving as musical director for pianist Randy Weston's ensembles during the past decade, Kibwe has developed an emotional immediacy in his playing that utterly transports an audience. A serene samba-driven original, "Evening Prayer," was graced by Kibwe's sauntering flute as it pranced gently atop pianist James Weidman's shimmering accompaniment. The evocative "Crossings" was also a heartfelt wonder as Kibwe began the piece with a wonderful kalimba (African thumb piano) solo. Weidman soon joined in with the stately melody, which eventually set the pace for the rest of the band.
Kibwe's tone is both muscular and malleable. When he improvises, his contoured passages obtain the logic of a Slinky stretched to full length. But Kibwe never forsook the melody for grandstanding on the brisk reading of Wayne Shorter's "This Is for Albert" or in his elegant interpretation of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Daydream."
The saxophonist also has a delightful rhythmic agility that enables his solos to dance. This enchanting quality was demonstrated on the closing calypso, "Pileau," which incited the audience to clap along with passionate enthusiasm.