This 1998 session by Vancouver-based Dylan Cramer was originally issued on the Casa label and now has been reconstituted by the German Nagel Heyer group. Cramer claims allegiance to Sonny Criss as his main influence and his alto has a similar full, rich sound and singular vibrato that were Criss' trademark after he threw off the mantle of a Charlie Parker clone. The Criss influence comes through on such cuts as Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin'," which is given an especially languorous, blusey rendition by Cramer and his very sympathetic trio of Ron Johnston, Steve Holy, and John Nolan. But contemporary jazz musicians' styles incorporate, whether consciously or not, the persuasions of other master practitioners of their instrument. Thus, a touch of Johnny Hodges is heard in "Caruso" and a smidgeon of Paul Desmond on "Stolen Moments," with references to Cannonball Adderley on such cuts as "Clouds." Add to this alto-stew stylistic qualities uniquely Cramer's and you have an alto player who is well-worth giving an ear to. The pace for most of the tracks is quite slow, leaving the impression that a good deal of thought went into their development. Matters pick up a bit with Oliver Nelson's aforementioned "Stolen Moments," the setting for some good solo work by Johnston and Holy. But through it all the distinctive, passionate sound of Cramer's alto remains steadfast, irrespective of tempo. There is nothing whatsoever that comes close to resembling a harsh or bitter tone in the way Cramer uses his instrument. He spends more time than most at the bottom-end of the alto's range, which helps to create a special mood. Assuming he gets more exposure, his signature sound will become immediately recognizable. This album is worth a visit.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan