The trio of Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond, and Ben Riley had worked wonders during many earlier live dates, so adding the saxophones of Gary Bartz (who a few years later would take the late Charlie Rouse's place in the rekindling of the quartet Sphere) to this already well-oiled machine proves to be a stroke of genius. In a live set from 1994, the music is primarily bop and hard bop, starting with a masterful interpretation of the late Hank Mobley's overlooked gem "This I Dig of You," with Bartz wailing on alto sax. Immediately following it is Freddie Hubbard's lovely ballad "Up Jumped Spring," initially played as a mid-tempo waltz with Bartz's dancing soprano sax leading the way before Barron kicks it up a notch during his solo. Barron's approach to the piano is consistently inventive, while Drummond demonstrates why he is considered a first-call bassist, and Riley's percussion seasonings are always just right. The remainder of the program includes lengthy treatments of Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now," the infrequently played "Time Was" (written by Miquel Prado), and the always popular bop anthem "The Theme" (whoever you credit the piece to...), and a rather brief finale of "Blue Monk." This beautifully recorded French CD is well-worth acquiring; its only weak point is its rather vapid liner notes.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden