With advanced technology to the point that just about anyone can put together and sell their own CD (with little regard as to whether or not the music is worthy of dissemination or not, mind you), so much of the self-produced jazz which reaches this reviewer's doorstep is half-baked and not worth much more than a few spins. In a dichotomous turn to the other direction, drummer Michael Melito's second and most recent project is of such a high caliber in both execution and packaging that it gives the major label releases a run for their money. This is not to say that Melito's music makes any commercial concessions, just that its intelligent mainstream outlook is well recorded and tastefully presented.
With trumpeter Joe Magnarelli (on one cut) and tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart on hand, the hard bop performances as led by Melito definitely fall in the same category as the fare cultivated on the Criss Cross Jazz label. Stewart is so unduly neglected that it's a crime, but he's in great form here with a swagger that recalls earlier tenor icons such as Dexter Gordon (spin 'Nobody Else But Me' for proof). As for pianist Paul Hoffman and bassist Paul Gill, the two mesh seamlessly with Melito, who obviously has given much thought to the final recorded sound of his drum kit.
Among the ten tracks, which clock in at close to an hour, are a few originals by Melito, Hoffman, and Magnarelli. Freddie Hubbard's 'Happy Times' and Tina Brooks' 'Minor Move' are sagaciously chosen pleasures that reveal Melito's tastes in obscure chestnuts. Furthermore, choosing to lead in the service of the music, the drummer does not engage in flashy solos and bombast. As such, nothing overly dramatic occurs, but each musician speaks with his or her own voice and the swinging 'lan displayed by all will not doubt offer a healthy share of delights for those of the hard bop persuasion.
Track Listing: Happy Times; Nobody Else But Me; Minor Move; My Ideal; Jack, Be Nimble; The Way I Feel; Bella Carolina; The Closer; The Closer (alt. Take); Bolivia*
Personnel: Michael Melito - Drums; Paul Hofmann - Piano; Paul Gill - Bass; Grant Stewart - Tenor Saxophone; Joe Magnarelli* - Flugelhorn