In the 1990s, Monarch was to the San Francisco Bay Area what Brownstone was to Boston and Delmark and Southport were to Chicago -- a jazz-oriented indie that wasn't afraid to document local talent. You didn't necessarily have to be a native or resident of the Bay Area to record for Monarch, but since the company was based in Palo Alto, CA, it made sense to document some of the people who were in the label's own backyard. One of the Monarch CDs recorded in the Bay Area was Mark Little's The Tribe, a decent post-bop effort. Little has a pleasing approach to post-bop pianism, and he is also noteworthy because of his choice of material. When it comes to picking songs, Little does his homework. The acoustic pianist (who is joined by bassist Peter Barshay, saxman Alex Murzyn, and drummer Curt Moore) doesn't inundate listeners with overdone standards. "Blue Daniel" is an often overlooked Frank Rosolino piece, and "Segment" is one Charlie Parker tune that can hardly be called a standard -- it hasn't been recorded nearly as often as "Yardbird Suite," "Ornithology," or "Now's the Time." Horace Silver's "Tokyo Blues" and Ray Noble's "The Touch of Your Lips" are well-known, but they haven't been totally run into the ground like, say, Sonny Rollins' "Oleo." Little is no innovator -- The Tribe sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1960s or 1970s instead of the 1990s. But it's a respectable effort that offers some surprises here and there.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson