How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Pianist Joe McBride, saxophonist Kenny Blake, and bassist Gerald Veasley are three of the premiere artists on the excellent contemporary jazz label Heads Up. Their R&B-influenced contemporary jazz styles are nicely compatible, so a "super band" such as this makes a nice vehicle for touring to support their individual recordings. Drummer Keith Carlock fits into the mix nicely to round out the ensemble.
This date was recorded at the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA, in 1998. The band is in fine form; the players interact wonderfully. Absent is the overplaying sometimes heard on live recordings; the selections all sound as tasteful as if they had been recorded in a more controlled studio environment - which is not to say that they lack spirit in any way.
Each of the three principles composed songs especially for this band. The only non-original is a cover of "Sarah Smile," on which McBride demonstrates his ample talents as a soulful singer. Elsewhere, there's a nice balance of ballads and interesting mid-tempo numbers. The opener, "Sweet Street," and the closer, "Mississippi Mudslide," are energetic, burning vehicles for some funky grooves and inspired soloing. As on most Heads Up CDs, there's a professionally realized enhanced portion, playable on a PC or Mac, which in this case has an additional video number not found on the music portion.