Alto saxophonist Anthony Ortega has swerved in and out of the spotlight for many years whether performing with the Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson big bands or recording a series of solo albums during the 50's. Yet like so many of his fellow jazz brethren, steady work was hard to come by during the somewhat dormant 1960's.
Here, on Scattered Clouds along with West Coast jazz veterans, pianist Mike Wofford and (ex-Bill Evans trio) drummer, Joe LaBarbera, the saxophonist gets to stretch his impressive wares on an outing consisting of standards and his lone original composition, i.e. the title track. Simply put, Ortega exhibits the sound and chops of a seasoned professional who over the years has developed a finely honed and relatively stylized mode of execution. Essentially, Ortega's special brew features sharp utilization of all registers in conjunction with airy lyricism and a commanding tone. On "Alone Together," the saxophonist emits joyous lines atop LaBarbera's swaggering medium tempo swing beats and Wofford's multihued comps and accenting counterattack. Through it all, the trio alternates between loosely swinging, hard bop themes and sharply constructed modern jazz-type diversions as the musicians trigger responses from one another while also reworking melodies via inventive interplay.
Ortega renders soul-searching lines and harmonious motifs on ballads such as "Body and Soul" and "What's New (Take 1)" while he picks up the tenor sax and blows arched patterns across an angular attack along with Wofford's savory melodies on "Island of Trolls." However, the musicians also disrupt the momentum as they venture into " free " territory, which is an ongoing characteristic that permeates this fine outing.