Here's a most pleasant surprise from the familiar tenor of Hank Crawford - a terrific collection of familiar soul/jazz tunes worthy of his deeply soulful skills and abundant talent. The former Ray Charles section leader has always known how to craft bluesy, soulful sessions - from many, many Atlantic dates in the 60s and terrific soul/disco dates on Kudu, Versatile and Groove Merchant in the 70s. The appeal of this April-May 1996 recording is similar to the appeal found in Crawford's Creed Taylor productions of the early 70s. After a long series of syrupy soul/jazz discs on Milestone in the 80s and 90s (under Crawford's name and in collaboration with Jimmy McGriff), Tight brings Crawford back strong. What's the difference? Hank Crawford arranges a nonet of outstanding talent performing worthwhile, mostly up-tempo, blues/soul jazz tunes. The lounge stuff is minimal here - and the playing is certainly more memorable. The lineup includes reed man David Newman (a former Ray Charles associate and frequent Crawford collaborator), CTI house drummer Idris Muhammed and the outstanding talents of funk guitarist Melvin Sparks and pianist/organist Danny Mixon. When the tunes aren't familiar (Bobby Womack's "Breezin," Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" and Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa") - they're simply well performed and totally enjoyable (i.e.: Hubert Laws' "I Had A Dream," Melvin Sparks' "Don't Start Nuttin', Won't Be Nuttin'" and Crawford's "Manhattan Blues"). Crawford is playing to his potential here (even though he soars through the sap elsewhere) and all the musicians seem to be enjoying it too. This Bob Porter production is a welcome return of one of the most revered sounds in soulful jazz.