Pianist Pete Malinverni is the leader of this quartet date and he wrote all but two of the numbers, yet he is overshadowed to an extent by a pair of his sidemen. Ralph Lalama's tenor solos, which recall both Sonny Rollins and Hank Mobley, generally take honors for their superior form, as the saxman comes up with consistently inventive ideas within the hard bop tradition. And drummer Mel Lewis, who was dying from cancer (he passed away six months later), sounds quite heroic, giving his all to each of the selections and even taking a drum solo on the closing "Why Was I Born?" Due to his health, which found him exhausted, most of the songs were only played once, but the quartet is in top form throughout. Pat O'Leary contributes supportive and swinging lines on bass while Malinverni, who is showcased with the trio on "If Only..." and "Perscara," proves to be an excellent modern mainstream pianist with a sound of his own. Released on a small label and probably very difficult to find, The Spirit is worth searching for. It is an important disc, both historically and musically.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow