Well known as an educator and as a first call sideman for the likes of Joe Lovano (who contributes the liner essay) and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama also has released a string of swinging mainstream jazz albums as a leader. On this album, he is joined by John Hart on guitar, Rick Petrone on bass and Joe Corsello on drums. The album opens up with Wayne Shorter's "Marie Antoinette" (digression: check out Ethan Iverson's excellent blog post about Shorter) which is uptempo swinging hard bop, balanced by a strong guitar solo and deep brawny tenor. There's a soulful version of "Livin' for the City" by Stevie Wonder, that gives Hart a chance to stretch out with a Grant Green flavored solo. Duke Person's "Minor League" is taken at a medium tempo, with the full quartet swinging propulsively before Lalama steps out with a strong and muscular solo. Petrone and Corsello lock in to make an excellent and deep bass and drums pocket. The album closes with a lengthy version of "I'm An Old Cowhand" that swings gently and recalls the classic Sonny Rollins version and includes a lengthy mid tempo guitar solo. This was a consistently good album of swinging hard bop jazz, and both the soloing and ensemble playing was top notch. Audience - amazon.com
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