Drummer Al Foster is widely recognized as a first call jazz drummer who has worked with many greats, including an extended tour of duty with Miles Davis, as well as stints with Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Henderson. This 1996 studio session made for the German Laika label is evidently Foster's first opportunity to record as a leader. Putting together an excellent band, with saxophonist Chris Potter (who doubles on soprano and tenor), pianist Dave Kikoski, and bassist Doug Weiss, Foster writes challenging post-bop compositions that inspire his bandmates, while he is perfectly happy to give them the spotlight. His bittersweet, bluesy "Monk Up and Down," is harmonically rich, with a superb tenor solo by Potter. The saxophonist contributed the percolating "Amsterdam Blues," suggesting the lively night scene of Harlem in its heyday. Kikoski composed the driving "Hope." The one familiar piece is Wayne Shorter's "Black Nile," played with gusto by the quartet. This may not be an easy CD to find, but it is obvious to anyone hearing it that Al Foster merits more opportunities to lead his own record dates.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden