Saxophonist Steve Wilson's third Criss Cross recording continues a tradition begun with his first two Criss Cross releases by changing the instrument of his front-line partner. This time the vibes of his previous recording, Blues for Marcus, have been replaced by the guitar of Freddie Bryant, plus he adds percussionist Daniel G. Sadownick on three selections to the core unit of pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Dennis Irwin, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. This creates a much different group sound that combined with the music chosen gives Step Lively a more contemporary flavor than his previous two Criss Cross releases. Normally thought of as a bop-oriented player, Wilson shows a more lyrical side on both soprano and alto sax, especially on Joanne Brackeen's "For Stan" and Bill Lee's "Be One." All of the music played on Step Lively shows a variety of influences. Wilson's "The Epicurean" and Donald Brown's "I Love It When You Dance This Way" are Latin influenced, and the title track and Bryant's "The Gospel Truth" are reminiscent of '60s Ornette Coleman. Only George Gershwin's "'S Wonderful," played up-tempo with brief key changes, is played in the modern post-bop style that dominates Wilson's previous releases. This is a solid step in the development of this fine musician.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Turner