Jazz bassist Christian Fabian's Fabian Zone Trio is a platform for showcasing different groups of musicians in different styles. The third Fabian Zone Trio album, The Masters Return!, finds him with a third pair of pianists and drummers, in this case Mike Longo and Lewis Nash, plus guests Jimmy Owens on trumpet and flugelhorn and Andres Boiarsky on tenor saxophone. The approach is noticeably different from that on the last Fabian Zone Trio album, Curtains of Life, which was a fusion session. Here, only Longo plugs in occasionally on an electric piano, though he uses an acoustic more often. Also, this is a collection given over half to standards. Fabian is at pains in his liner notes to offer alternative explanations for the album title The Masters Return! besides the obvious boastful one. The returning masters, he says at first, can be taken to mean the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, whose tunes are covered. They can also be the other musicians besides himself, who played at one time or another with those jazz legends. (He also offers a third spiritual/religious meaning for the title.) In any case, the point is that the album is a reverent homage to some of the greats of jazz, and as a bandleader Fabian certainly allows his fellow players plenty of room, even to the point of serving primarily as a backup musician to Owens, for example, on the trumpeter's own composition "Dear Thaddeus and Roland," and turning over the cover of Davis' "Milestones" to Owens and Boiarsky for solos. Elsewhere, Longo gets plenty of playing time on each of his keyboards. This is the sort of set that probably would go over better in a live show, in which the listener wouldn't be bothered by the comparisons with recordings by those who originated these tunes. Still, it works as a tribute by a musician with a sense of history who is trying to push bebop heritage forward.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann