Jesse Davis is a meat and potatoes alto saxophonist. He sounds like the living extension of that part of Julian Adderley and Sonny Stitt which was unaffected by Charlie Parker. He has a beautifully virile, muscular tone brimming with confidence. On The Setup, Davis chooses a guitar trio for his rhythm section, lead by plectrist Peter Bernstein perfectly balancing Davis’s brawn with grace and intelligence.
Davis’s choice of repertoire for this recital is tasteful and smart. From the standards bin, he supplies Jackie McLean’s craggy "Little Melonae," which messages firmly and is well supported by Ray Drummond’s solo. Herbie Hancock’s funky "Driftin’" is the disc's highlight, if not centerpiece. This soulful blues sound like it's played by Julian Adderley if he were a dry martini personified. Davis’s title composition strongly recalls Oliver Nelson’s vision of the blues.
Guitarist Peter Bernstein receives almost equal treatment on this recording: he solos broadly and often. His comping is excellent, making this recording a great case for the pianoless jazz combo. Bernstein steps out in superb fashion on both the title cut and "Driftin’." The sum here is much greater than all of the parts. This excellent straight-ahead offering is unlikely to disappoint on any count.