|For "The Lineup" One For All returns to the Sharp Nine label for which they made their first CD, "Too Soon to Tell" in 1997. "Too Soon to Tell" was a stunning debut CD, made when the group had already become tight and its members already had mature and personal solo voices. So the challenge faced by One For All on their subsequent CD's (ten in all) has been to maintain the high standards and the inspiration which marked their first outing. Certainly on "The Lineup" the group meets the challenge, not only maintaining the high standards but tweaking their characteristic hard bop sound just enough to keep the music fresh and very interesting.
One of the strengths of this CD is the variety in grooves, moods, and tempos. The music consists of seven attractive originals by group members, plus pianist David Hazeltine's bluesy, medium tempo arrangement of "Sweet and Lovely". The opening "Anatolia" by Eric Alexander which drives hard with a hint of a shuffle beat captures the listener's attention immediately, and lets you know that the group was in inspired form on the February 2006 evening of the recording. Alexander's "Little Lucas" swings a little more gently but still insistently. Jim Rotondi's "Downtown Sounds" and Steve Davis' "Smooth" feature Hazeltine on Fender Rhodes and before you dismiss that as unworthy, give those tracks a good listen for the sound is quite refreshing and adds an attractive color to the overall group dynamic. Steve Davis' gentle "Letter to Mary" is the band's ballad feature. Both the title tune by Hazeltine and "Express Train" by Jim Rotondi are hard-driving hard-bop tracks (a bit odd that they were programmed together). The latter track is perhaps the outstanding track on the CD and features a marvelous bursting-at-the-seams trumpet solo by the composer. But the lover of hard bop sounds will find much to enjoy on every track.
Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander is in wonderful form throughout the CD and continues to impress as one of the very best soloists in jazz today. Steve Davis' be-bop trombone is elegant in solo turns and his full sound along with Hazeltine's piano has always been key to the group's strong ensemble sound. Joe Farnsworth's drumming is particularly sharp and well-recorded. Farnsworth and bassist John Webber (replacing Peter Washington on this occasion), along with pianist Hazeltine make up a super "in-the pocket" rhythm section which never lets the intensity slip.
"The Lineup" confirms One for All's place at the forefront of today's straight ahead jazz groups. Don't hesitate over this highly recommended 58 minute CD (and if it's not already there, add the excellent "Too Soon to Tell" to your collection, as well). J Tapscott