Inspiration comes from many sources. For legendary drummer Al Foster, it stems from the two groups of people who are closest to him: the jazz giants he’s been honored to play with (and who, though he’d be the last to admit it, have been blessed to work with him); and, first and foremost, his family. On his latest album, Inspirations & Dedications, Foster pays back his loved ones and collaborators with a set of songs written or interpreted in their honor.
Available now via Smoke Sessions Records, Inspirations & Dedications is largely composed of Foster’s original tunes, which lovingly tip their hats to his wife, children, grandchildren, colleagues, and even himself. The album is bookended by a pair of classics by two of the jazz icons with whom the drummer has worked extensively: Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Each piece comes vividly to life through Foster’s stellar quintet: trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Dayna Stephens, pianist Adam Birnbaum, and longtime bassist (and dedicatee) Doug Weiss.
The pieces on Inspirations & Dedications aren’t portraits but gifts, beloved tunes titled as remembrances and appreciations. Foster has been acknowledging the people who’ve made an impact on his life for as long as he’s been writing music. “I’m getting up there in age,” says the 76-year old drummer, though he’s also quick to point out that he’s in good health. “My musical life has been unbelievable, and I love my family. I just wanted to leave them something to enjoy with my songs.”
Al Foster, who not only uses his songs to show his affection and gratitude to those closest to him, is the first to deflect a compliment and marvel at his good fortune. “I’ve been really blessed,” he concludes. “It feels phenomenal that I got to play with Miles, Herbie, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz. As a kid you dream about playing with these people if you ever get good enough. For me it’s been a big dream come true.”