Monte Croft

A Higher Fire

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A former member of the Terence Blanchard-Donald Harrison group, this is Monte Croft's debut as a leader. On this recording, Croft enlisted the services of well-known colleagues pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, and drummer Gene Jackson to perform ten Croft originals. While Croft's main instrument is vibes, he plays piano and sings Stevie Wonder-influenced vocals on "What Is Love" and "Mandela." As a vibraphonist, Croft's primary influence seems to be Bobby Hutcherson and compositions such as the energetic title track are reminiscent of Hutcherson's late-'60s period on Blue Note. Other favorites include "The Money Players," a fast waltz based on a repeating piano figure, and "The Escalator," an interesting take on "Giant Steps" that lasts just over two minutes, beginning with a vibes-drums duet and ending with a blistering Miller piano solo. Soprano saxophonist Lance Bryant guests on the medium swinger "An Incredibly Troubled Brother" making one wish that he were on more of the selections. Strangely, Croft does not play on "Vanessa Bing." In spite of this, this is a very good debut from a promising young musician who seems to have disappeared from sight.

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