A huge improvement over 1994's I've Known Rivers, on which pianist Billy Childs seemed like a sideman on his own album, 1996's The Child Within is a dandy collection of bop-influenced originals and some well-chosen standards, all of them done in a tight small-combo setting featuring an all-star cast: Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Dave Holland on bass, Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, and second-generation pioneer Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax. The combo, not surprisingly, cooks throughout, but Childs himself remains at the music's forefront. His playing has always been heavily influenced by Thelonious Monk, to whom he pays tribute twice, first with the swinging original "The Loneliest Monk" and then with a playful, lighthearted solo version of Monk's "Pannonica," one of the late pianist's most charming compositions. Another highlight is the original "Dreams," which features a truly brilliant muted-trumpet solo from Blanchard, backed by a full sax section and Childs' own Ellington-like melody line. Excellent stuff.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason