Brought together by producer Todd Barkan, these four potent traditionalists raise the roof on a collection of standards and jazz classics. Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and pianist Cyrus Chestnut are out in front, but Alexander yields the floor on every other track, giving Chestnut a chance to shine in a trio setting with George Mraz on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Alexander swings relentlessly on the opener, a bright reading of "The Lamp Is Low," and he's particularly effective on the ballads "Everything Must Change" and "Prelude to a Kiss." Chestnut's at his best on "Moonlight Becomes You," the Herbie Hancock gem "Dolphin Dance," and an out of tempo rendering of "Laura"; he also does powerful work on, of all things, the Billy Ocean hit from the '80s, "Suddenly." Moving back another decade in the pop songbook, Alexander returns for a relaxed run-through of the Boz Scaggs/Rita Coolidge hit "We're All Alone."
Mraz and Nash, who once worked together as the rhythm section for the great Tommy Flanagan, are in terrific form here. The two also happen to appear on 2000's Grand Slam album with Jim Hall and Joe Lovano -- a far less traditional project. Listening to both albums back to back reveals the scope of this rhythm team's copious and wide-ranging talents.