Continuum, which has no relation to earlier groups with the same name, is a compelling post-bop all-star sextet consisting of saxophonists Gary Bartz and Jean Toussaint, trumpeter and flügelhornist Bill Mobley, pianist Donald Brown, bassist Essiet Essiet, and drummer Billy Kilson, with percussionist Anga Diaz guesting on three tracks. Each member of the sextet brought at least one original or arrangement to the date, with superb results. Mobley's scoring of Herbie Hancock's "I Have a Dream" contrasts with its composer's 1969 recording, with Mobley dropping several of the reed and brass instruments used by Hancock in favor of a cleaner though less haunting sound. Kilson's "Way One Street" mixes a funky undertone with imaginative scoring of the saxes. Mobley's brilliant flügelhorn is prominent in Brown's funky, Latin-flavored "The Vibe at Hub's Place." Toussaint's "Heian Yondan" is one of the most challenging piece of the session, especially keeping the rhythm section on their toes. The haunting ballad "Relentless" was penned by Bartz, and begins as a duet for alto sax and piano, with a noticeable increase in intensity and depth as he adds the full band. Essiet, a veteran bassist known for his fine work with Bobby Watson, wrote the Caribbean-flavored "Shona," though it isn't clear whether Bartz or Toussaint is the soprano saxophone soloist. The album is wrapped with an extended concert performance of Billy Eckstine's gorgeous ballad "I Want to Talk About You," with Toussaint's full-bodied tenor sax complemented by Brown's matchless touch on piano. This French release is well worth seeking.
Act One Review
by Ken Dryden