Tenor/soprano saxophonist Marcus Strickland tears it up on his debut disc, and so do his young bandmates (pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Brandon Owens, and drummer/twin brother E.J. Strickland). They do fall back on typical post-bop mannerisms at times, but their poise and promise are striking and Strickland's originals are solid. "At Last," an involved mid-tempo piece, segues directly and beautifully into his ballad "The Ninth Life," which is followed by the fast and fierce "When in Doubt." Glasper not only stuns at the keyboard, he also contributes two exceptionally pretty tunes, "Three for Her" and "Joy Song." E.J. Strickland weighs in with "February 21," the disc's only soprano feature, which sets the stage for the leader's "Gar-Zone," a fiery minor blues that closes the set. As for the two covers, the quartet shows restraint on Joe Henderson's "Serenity," but tries something rather bold with Wayne Shorter's "Iris," which kicks off the session. This poignant waltz from Miles Davis' historic E.S.P. becomes a fast 4/4 burner in Strickland's hands. And it works.
At Last Review
by David R. Adler