Saxophonist Ken McIntyre always had a thing about vision. His early records Looking Ahead,Open Horizon, and Chasing the Sun made explicit reference to his fascination with perspective, and his music has likewise reflected this focus. The ironically-titled A New Beginning marks McIntyre's last work as a leaderhe died in July, 2001and it's a logical step forward for an artist who never received the recognition (or the opportunities to record) that he deserved.
A New Beginning plays both sides of the coin, presenting a fairly straightforward hard bop rhythm section juxtaposed against McIntyre's expansive reed adventures. The twelve tunes on this record offer him opportunities to stretch out at length on the alto saxophone and flute, plus other reed instruments. With a variety of moods and feels, they emphasize melody and coherence.
That structure makes it all the more exciting when McIntyre steps out, as he does on alto with the opener, "Black Sugar Cane." His woody tone, rhythmic unpredictability, and bird-like flights reveal an unpretentious sense of discovery. When McIntyre switches to flute, his approach changes dramatically: he offers gossamer lines of fragile melody, paying more attention to delineating the turning points than mining the depths of a given phrase or mood.
The rhythm section on A New Beginning plays a solid supporting role, particularly Wilber Morris's deliberate foundation-laying work on the bass. But the main reason to check out this record is McIntyre himself. The mix on A New Beginning occasionally falls short, and the piano slips into the background more than it should, but that's a relatively minor problem. By the time this group wraps up the title track closer (with strong solo work by the group and McIntyre's understated melodicisim on bass clarinet), you'll wish there was more.