It isn't uncommon for a jazz musician to label-hop -- instead of recording for one company exclusively, he/she will give different albums to different independent labels. Bob Ackerman did his share of label-hopping in the '90s, and the rugged, Sonny Rollins-influenced saxophonist was still doing so in the early 2000s. Released by the Los Angeles-based Chase Music Group in 2001, A la Mode is a totally pianoless effort that finds Ackerman leading mostly quartets or trios. His sidemen include, among others, Joe Cohn on guitar, Chris Lough on bass, and Tom Sayek or Mark Griffith on drums. For this decent post-bop/hard bop outing, the main tool in Ackerman's arsenal is the tenor sax -- he plays it on six of the 11 tracks (including Don Sebesky's "Forget," the Brazilian-flavored "L.T.D.," and the overdone standard "It Could Happen to You"). Meanwhile, Ackerman embraces the alto sax on two selections: the introspective "Serenity" and an unlikely post-bop interpretation of the Captain & Tennille hit "Come in From the Rain," both of which demonstrate that he is as confident and big-toned on alto as he is on tenor. And Ackerman plays a lyrical yet swinging flute on the three remaining selections, which range from the standard "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" (another tune that has been done to death over the years) to the dreamy "Robin's Double Rainbow" (an Ackerman original). No one will accuse A la Mode of being groundbreaking -- Ackerman is no innovator -- but it's a noteworthy, if derivative and conventional release that fans of straight-ahead bop and post-bop will enjoy.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson