All About Jazz Review by Edward Blanco
When Last We Met is sure to make more than a ripple in the jazz world. Atlanta-based multi-instrumentalist and reed man Mace Hibbard is an educator and versatile musician who not only plays a passionate alto saxophone but also manifests ample talents and expressive voicing on soprano and tenor. A blues-based bebop player, Hibbard departs from this background by crafting an album of original modern straightahead jazz full of catchy melodies and soft ballads that can take your breath away.
When he recorded this album in August of 2006, Hibbard enlisted some of the finest jazz musicians in Atlanta. Pianist Louis Heriveaux provides key statements on the title track and throughout the session. Marc Miller (bass), Justin Varnes (drums) and special guest Bryan Leitch (guitar) round out the band.
The album opens up with the blistering “Captain Caveman,” featuring the first of many sizzling solos by the leader, who plays alto. The title cut finds Hibbard slithering along a nice soft melody on soprano, accompanied by the guitarist and capped off with a wonderful piano dance by Heriveaux. “Reverend Boots ‘n’ Ball” is the only number where Hibbard plays tenor; he does so with the same conviction as he does on alto.
“The Tempest” comes across as a little too dark and moody for me, yet it still managed to hold my interest. By far the highlight of the recording has to be the lovely slow ballad “Lullabye For Alex,” where Hibbard makes his alto sing one sweet love song with an absolutely delicious melody. Other notables include “Town Lake” and “Better Than Most.” The set ends with Hibbard on soprano in a duet with the pianist on the light and warm “My Prayer.”
When Last We Met is an impressive performance by a remarkable saxophone player who's not yet a household name. One listen to this disc and names like Phil Woods, Bud Shank, Lee Konitz, Art Pepper and the late Jackie McLean come to mind, not one of them a bad comparison.