Chicago's jazz scene suffered a tremendous loss when Lin Halliday died in January 2000 at the age of 63. The tenor saxman's death wasn't all that surprising; he had been plagued by a variety of health problems, and it was no secret that years of hard living and self-abuse had inevitably taken their toll on his body. But even so, one hoped that, God willing, he would make it to 75 or 80 and continue to build his Delmark catalog. Halliday didn't record his first official Delmark album, Delayed Exposure, until he was 55 in 1991, and the rest of the 1990s found him continuing to make up for lost time (health problems and all). Recorded at saxophonist Mike Smith's home studio in 1988, Airegin preceded his Delmark contract by three years and remained in the can until the Chicago-based indie label released it commercially in late 2000. This posthumous release is quite similar to Halliday's 1990s recordings -- joined by pianist Jodie Christian, bassist Dennis Carroll, and drummer Tom Kronquist, the saxman offers 1950s-like hard bop and embraces a lot of overdone standards that jazz fans have heard time and time again. But he plays so soulfully and with such warmth that one can easily forgive his tendency to make obvious choices. Arguably, Halliday was to Sonny Rollins what Sonny Stitt and Sonny Criss were to Charlie Parker and Paul Quinichette was to Lester Young -- a disciple, but not an outright clone. While there is no denying that Rollins was Halliday's primary influence, Halliday was a talented (although underexposed) hard bopper in his own right -- and his charisma is impossible to miss on warhorses like "Cherokee" and "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise." Halliday (who tended to be more sentimental than Rollins) could bring a lot of humanity to ballads, which is exactly what he does on "My Foolish Heart" and Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." The release of Airegin was long overdue.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson