Not long after saxophonists Dick Oatts and Rich Perry joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, pianist Harold Danko (who was already in the band) was very impressed with their abilities, and he began to conceive of a record date featuring both men by the early '80s, though it wouldn't come to fruition for another quarter century. Together with his regular rhythm section (bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirschfield), they dove headfirst into a date featuring Danko's intriguing arrangements. The tense, extended workout of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" (the session's only standard) finds both Oatts (alto) and Perry (tenor) departing from conventional approaches and engaging in a live series of exchanges with the leader. John Coltrane's "Like Sonny" (one of his less frequently performed works) lets the quintet reveal its possibilities. Horace Silver's dreamy ballad "Peace" and Thelonious Monk's snappy "I Mean You" also are in good hands, with fine solos all around. It's only natural that the group would explore some of the repertoire of the Jones/Lewis band, with a spirited interpretation of Jones' well-named blues "Don't Get Sassy" and the cheerful, loping ballad "Evol Deklaw Ni." The pianist's one original of the date is the brisk "Tidal Breeze," providing a brief showcase for Formanek and highlighted by the saxophonist's adventurous solos. This rewarding CD is well worth investigating.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden