In a lineup with trumpet, bass, and drums, the man with the horn is left, right, and center. He is the one who has to lead and carry the trio, though the others play their part in fashioning and completing their mission. Clay Jenkins succeeds in doing this, though there are occasions when the arrangements and some unusual notes hamper the resolve.
The two John Coltrane compositions work well in the contrasting shadows they cast. On "26-2" they come out lithe and swinging, with a pliancy that is engagingly fulminated by Jenkins on the trumpet, with Thompson and Campbell ringing in a facile rhythm. Jenkins is particularly resourceful in investing ideas. He evokes some intense imagery on "Up Against the Wall" and he changes intonation and direction to give the tune some good depth. They rework "Soul Eyes" with a sensitive delicacy. The trumpeter gives the melody a glow, his lines stoking a becoming warmth. And with Thompson's exemplary use of the brushes adding to the lure, this turns out to be the finest track on the CD. "Con Alma" is in another bag. Thompson sets the tonal palette, and the song shimmers but does not stir much sentiment as technique triumphs over invention.
Of the original material, "In Fine Line" lives up to its words with Jenkins unleashing torrid hard bop lines. And if that were not enough, Thompson and Campbell have an engaging conversation that's well worth eavesdropping on. Overall this album offers a mixed bag, with the good stuff tilting the balance in its favor.