One of the many admirable things about the Delmark label is its willingness to champion artists regardless of their resulting record sales. Important, if unsung, musicians like Barrett Deems, Jodie Christian, Malachi Thompson and Ari Brown have made essential entries to their portfolios on this Chicago staple and all have made repeat appearances even if their efforts haven’t translated into financial boons. Lin Halliday is perhaps the archetypal example of the Delmark crew’s unflagging belief and support in the musicians that populate their roster. Personal problems plagued the man on and off the bandstand and in and out of the studio, so much so that his artistic misses were often as frequent as his near hits. When other labels had thrown in the towel thanks to his irascible idiosyncrasies Delmark played the role of patient parent and continued to give him a voice.
This disc, released posthumously after Halliday’s untimely passing in early 2000, is both homage and something of untold chapter. Previously distributed by drummer Kronquist at concerts in tape-only form, the session makes its debut in disc form and is finally available to a far larger audience. The leader’s widely publicized Sonny Rollins fixation is on display, but fortunately the ornery disposition he often developed in the studio is absent and the band commences to swinging from the opening theme of “Airegin.” The rhythm section, fronted by the estimable Christian is an ideal match-up for Halliday’s tobacco-tinged, slightly pinched tenor. Especially informative are the saxophonist’s readings of Rollins favorites like “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise,” where slight movements off mic create interesting (if perhaps unintentional) dynamic shifts during his solos. Kronquist’s cymbals and carefully measured snare and tom accents keep the infectious rhythm of the tune moving, and what would a version of this tune be without a bass solo? Picking up the heavy gauntlet Carroll chimes in with a timely plucked treatise that honors the fine lineage of players (Wilbur Ware, Paul Chambers, etc.) who have improvised before him on the familiar melody.
Halliday may have suffered from persistent inner demons much of his career, but on this finely crafted date they appear to have been exorcised, at least for a short spell. The result was arguably the most consistent and focused recording of his career. Listeners with a love for tenor-driven mainstream jazz will almost certainly find much to enjoy in his assiduous musings captured here.
Track Listing: Airegin/ Sophisticated Lady/ With A Song In My Heart/ Softly As In A Morning Sunrise/ My Foolish Heart/ Hello Young Lovers/ Love Letters/ Cherokee.
Personnel: Lin Halliday- tenor saxophone; Jodie Christian- piano; Dennis Carroll- bass; Tom Kronquist. Recorded: September 30, 1988, Chicago, IL.