Big Jay McNeely Central Avenue Confidential

Nice to know that time can, on occasion, stand still. 73-year-old Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely is still kicking out his hard-honking, hurricane-force tenor sax-led music like it was yesterday, as much in vogue now as it was in its heyday in the late '40s and early '50s. Big Jay first made big news with his then outlandish storm-warning sax solos, coupled with a stage show that proved him to be the original sax maniac. Blasting out sweaty sheets of squealing, honking horn riffs, McNeely redefined enthusiasm with added antics that included soloing on his knees, on his back and running through the crowds, bug-eyed and bigger-than-life. The effect was attention-getting and electrifying, bridging the gap between R&B and rock'n'roll. This recording marks his 50th year of recording; his first chart success being 1949's "Deacon Blues," which made it to number one on the R&B charts. Central Avenue Confidential finds a more mellow McNeely, yet his talents are intact and his choice of players impeccable, helping him to serve up such classics as Johnny Mandel's "I Want To Live" and Duke Ellington's "Caravan." Landing somewhere between the swing sound of a big band and the solid, soul-jazz groove that spawned the return of acid jazz, McNeely remains one cool character, championing a style of music that he not only originated but made his own. (Rounder)