This intriguing release features pianist Marcus Roberts and a dozen of his originals played by a variety of young musicians in groups as large as 11 pieces. The compositions (other than Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" and Jelly Roll Morton's "Jungle Blues") are all by the pianist, as are the arrangements. In general, the original tunes themselves are not all that memorable (none of the melodies are destined to catch on), but the charts are quite colorful and often make the ensembles sound like a distortion of early-1930s Duke Ellington (with some McCoy Tyner-like piano here and there from Roberts). There are plenty of excellent solos from the band (which includes trumpeter Marcus Printup, trombonist Ronald Westley and altoist Sherman Irby) during the episodic music, and the CD rewards repeated listenings. An intriguing set.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow