The album concept for James Carter's fifth release as leader is the familiar organ combo sound with earthy tenor saxophone. The concept works for the 29-year-old saxophonist, who still manages to retain the other elements with which his career has been associated: overt physical avant-garde taunts, swingin' Kansas City rambles, and polite mainstream lyricism. Organist Craig Taborn teams with Jaribu Shahid on acoustic bass and Tani Tabbal at the drums for five tracks.
Organist Cyrus Chestnut teams with Steve Kirby on acoustic bass and Alvester Garnett at the drums for "Frisco Follies" and "Lockjaw's Lament." Organist Henry Butler works out with drummer Leonard King; they share the stage with blues guitarist Kevin Carter on "Down to the River" and "Trouble in the World." They also join with alto saxophonist Cassius Richmond, trumpeter Dwight Adams, and Carter's bass clarinet on the slow, smooth, blues-like "Odyssey." Butler's pedals provide the bass line.
The traditional "Trouble in the World" features Carter on soprano saxophone, expressing soulfully in three-four time. Spencer Barefield's "Escape From Bizarro World" has Carter stretching out moderately on tenor with assistance from altoist Richmond and trumpeter Adams. From his Saxemble roots, Carter offers skronks and squeals on his own composition "Skull Grabbin'," which allows for displays of his technical mastery on tenor. Out of the Kansas City mold, "Don's Idea," a Don Byas composition, features Carter and Adams trading fours on tenor sax and muted trumpet, respectively. Carter's original "Frisco Follies" finds the leader overdubbing tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones in another Kansas City romp, spinning out an authentic cutting contest by himself.
"Lockjaw's Lament" is another Carter original out of the early organ combo mold in which Carter's tenor offers a tribute to Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and all the other tenor players who gave us lyrical blues-drenched pleasure. The title track starts off with Carter's trademark noise thrash, then settles down to an enjoyable blues-laced romp with Kevin Carter's guitar and the Taborn-Shahid-Tabbal organ trio. With his tenor, Carter draws in the loose ends to offer a tune representative of his personal sound: a little bit outside skronk, a little bit Kansas City romp, and a lot of blues-based soulful tenor saxophone "singing."