Randy Sandke is a spectacular trumpeter, one who is most associated with small-group swing but is actually a forward-looking improviser capable of playing in more modern idioms too. On this set he is teamed with the Stan Getz-inspired tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Kenny Washington. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon makes his lone appearance on the quirky title cut. Other than the three Sandke originals ("Cliffhanger," "One for Mulgrew," and the jazz waltz "One Fine Day in May"), the repertoire consists of swing standards. Sandke and Allen work particularly well together while Miller (who normally sounds closer to McCoy Tyner) proves to be quite adaptable in this setting. Sandke, who has a warm tone, a wide range, and the ability to play the adventurous ideas he thinks of, is in top form throughout. Highlights include "Let's Face the Music and Dance," a passionate rendition of "What's New," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," and "Limehouse Blues." Every Sandke recording is well worth hearing, with Cliffhanger offering a strong example of his musical talents.
by Scott Yanow