Boasting a mixture of some of the best young players around, many from the burgeoning Brooklyn jazz scene and mixing in veteran alto saxophonist master James Spaulding, Eric Wyatt has fashioned a sprawling, energetic, raw-boned recording, at times bringing to mind the cooking era of Blue Note Records.
Wyatt, a big-toned tenor saxophonist who favors bold, sweeping lines, is in rocking form on his own "One for the People," powered by drummer E.J. Strickland and on James Spaulding's raucous "Hurry Home." Spaulding's soulful solo is announced in an acidic tone and propelled by yelps, squawks and trills. He is a joy to hear.
Wyatt can also play with delicacy; hear him on "Beneath the Surface," written by underappreciated tenor man Bill Saxton. The opening motif briefly suggests "Beautiful Love," then goes on to limn its own theme. Strickland, no less a force here, motors the proceedings with authority without getting in the way. The leader's jumping "Welcome Home" spotlights fire-breathing trumpeter Keyon Harrold, as well as another thoughtful Wyatt solo.
Featured on soprano on "TFB (Tears for Baghdad): the Aftermath," the leader evokes a misterioso mood worthy of Ellington and Strayhorn that he passes off to pianist Robert Glasper for a long, eloquent statement, well shaded by Strickland.
"If I Had Only Known" (another Wyatt original) is the release's most lyrical track. Pianist Anthony Wonsey shines here, moving away from the more obvious McCoy Tyner influence heard in some of the preceding tracks. The leader too is reflective yet in motion, with a touch of sour in his tone and stretching some of his notes to great effect. Kenyatta Beasley's golden-toned offering extends the mood of this exuberant performance. All hands stretch out on the magic carpet laid by Strickland and bassist Darryl Hall.
The only real problem here is that, at well over 70 minutes, sameness creeps into the proceedings. Digital recording technology allows for considerable recording time per disc, but it is not always wise to use every second of that time. Often, less is indeed more. Another minus is that "Maybe Tomorrow" sounds too much like McCoy Tyner's brilliant "Three Flowers."
These flaws are not enough to blunt the impact of this nicely conceived, well-executed recording. It provides a worthy showcase for all involved.