Eric Alexander has been fortunate to record often as a bandleader since he emerged on the jazz scene, with over 30 CDs to his credit in less than two decades. But one of the biggest challenges facing any jazz musician is to constantly expand his repertoire without rehashing the familiar standards and timeless jazz vehicles. Working with his frequent collaborators, including pianist Harold Mabern (his former teacher, who has played on a number of Alexander's recordings), bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Joe Farnsworth, Alexander asked them to suggest songs to go along with those he chose. How many musicians would think of transforming "Cavatina from 'The Deer Hunter'" into a viable jazz setting? The tenor saxophonist did, and delivers a breezy performance with his big tone soaring with the driving rhythm section. Mabern suggested "Footsteps" (which first appeared on a smooth jazz album), but it evolves into something very different in the quartet's hands, reborn as brisk hard bop vehicle with a slight touch of Latin, with potent solos by both Alexander and the pianist. Jazz bassist Bill Lee's melancholy "Don't Follow the Crowd" is an overlooked gem, a lush ballad that is perfect for Alexander's lyrical solo. The one widely familiar song is Henry Mancini's "Charade" (the theme from a delightful Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn mystery film), the quartet embellishes this tasty waltz with just the right seasoning. Alexander also brought two originals to the date, including his infectious "Nomor Senterbress," a sizzling hard bop cooker, along with peppy "Remix Blues." Eric Alexander remains one of the greats of his generation as he continues his musical exploration with the outstanding Don't Follow the Crowd.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden