This is the second album by One for All, an all-star group of young jazz veterans totally steeped in the hard bop tradition and group dynamic of the classic ensembles of Art Blakey and Horace Silver. Eric Alexander, the rising tenor sax phenom, and Peter Washington, the talented and ubiquitous bassist, are probably the best known players here, but all the band's members are respected figures on the New York scene with long lists of impressive credits. (Trombonist Steve Davis, for example, played in the last Jazz Messengers group and is a member of Jackie McLean's sextet. Not too shabby.) And these guys really know what they're doing, whether it's reworking standards like "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "What Kind of Fool Am I?" and "These Foolish Things," or tearing through a number of hard bop burners.
The band features a three-horn front line of Alexander, Davis, and trumpeter Joe Rotondi, with a rhythm section of David Hazeltine on piano, Joe Farnsworth on drums, and Washington on bass. All are first-rate players and are given plenty of opportunity to shine as soloists, with Alexander and Hazeltine making particularly noteworthy contributions.
The originals include two by Alexander and one each by Rotondi, Hazeltine, and Davis. The standout tunes are Davis' high-energy "Optimism" and trumpeter Rotondi's "The Prevaricator," which recalls, in its title and ferocious style, the 1960s compositions (think "The Sidewinder," "The Procrastinator," "The Rumproller") of hard-bop trumpet giant Lee Morgan. Alexander's "Straight Up" is a free-for-all blowin' session that gives the whole band room to strut its stuff.
For fun, and a decided change of pace, the group also offers a funky, slow groove take on "Stranger in Moscow," a song written by, of all people, Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson). I guess if Miles could record the gloved one ("Human Nature"), why not...